I’ll explain the context of this later, after the poem. I’m trying to add to my collection of poetry about Hong Kong, but I know that I could have given the context of this poem and inserted it into the actual text far better than I currently have. I’ll make edits later, but I wanted to post the first draft of this here, especially since I haven’t been posting as much!
Underneath me the sweet paved roads
Make me giggle as I massage their backs.
The sidewalks are too ragged and there
are too many shoes that squeak
“Watch out!” as I pass by, so we stroll together
on sweet paved roads.
We never travel alone – our companions
that leave us behind are sleek silver things;
in front they charge with emblems of three pointed stars,
or propeller blades like shields, a V on a W,
a roaring, bucking horse or simply: Porsche.
They leave us behind with the gentle nod
of an engine’s roar.
The lights are kind too. Always clicking.
Flashing stop. Take care. Go now. Be safe.
The wind delights in fanning us just like
how the sun lights our way. She curves over.
Her back like the top of a car, bent like a bridge.
She brings the passengers. I carry them.
I am rusty and my wheels sometimes stop.
But it is she who needs repair.
Her body is wrinkled like the inside of a
peeled grapefruit. Her paint has peeled to
the skeleton of rust, brown and red. Headlights
twinkle every now and then. A leak. No horn,
no complaint, unlike those who chill inside
of the friends who rush on by.
She loads our passengers up till
Sometimes she leaves me in places, no leash.
Nobody will tow me. Sometimes I am rewarded
with kicks if I fall over, but she keeps me well.
All over town I carry but am cared for.
Lights. Roads. Friends, rushing on by.
But all the time I wonder how it is that it is
she who is invisible, and not I.
Hong Kong has an absolutely wonderful welfare system. While there are hundreds of pictures of people living in what we call ‘cage homes’, outside of these homes there is the feeling of public service, in parks, in cleanliness, in government subsidised facilities the poor feel more at ease with their lot in life. Yes, there is something insidious about this.
We also provide jobs. Jobs to keep our streets clean, and the most commonly seen street cleaners is the seventy or so old woman. Even worse are the cart-pushers, with stacks and stacks of boxes and cans, taking recyclable materials to recycling yards to earn measly four or five Hong Kong dollars at a time (less than a dollar US). Just type in “hong kong old lady pushing cart” into Google to see some examples of this.
What makes me even sadder however is how infrequently Hong Kong people notice these ladies. They’ve essentially been shoved off-sidewalks due to the high population density of Hong Kong, and drivers hate having to wait behind these elderly women. From time to time there’ll be a Facebook status update about how someone’s helped them out and how horrible it is, but otherwise very quickly these women fall into obscurity. We’re very ‘fight for our own future’ in Hong Kong, which is something that’s OK to be. Still. We look at the carts more than we do the women. That bugs me.
Anyway, like I said, this is just the draft of a poem, a poem that I want to include the above context on. I’ll figure out a way to do that.