george chinnery painting the fisherwoman of Macau


wall, and what is behind it? ©papa osmubal

wall, and what is behind it? ©papa osmubal

george chinnery painting the fisherwoman of Macau 

leung ping kwan

                                             translated by brian holton

Sniffing at a snuff bottle, laughing out loud again and again
Strange, this ugliest of men has the biggest of appetites
he can shove everything into his mouth and chew upon them
and still his hungry stomach remains empty: cups and plates from breakfast
a cathedral completed and then burnt down, leaving just a façade
upper class Britons who gossip about one another, and even
their ludicrous scarves? He chewed on the vanity of a foreign land
the long robes, loose sleeves, bygone prosperity buttoned with trivialities
Sitting in a circle on the balcony, those merchants grown rich from opium
are his close friends, and he a regular guest at their dining tables,
but perhaps he’d like to quietly remove his collar
stiff, like an ex-wife ugly fierce and impossible to break away from
debtors from India, or court cases that drag on forever, it makes him
yearn to forget the over-elaborate age-old European attire

to rest his eyes on the natural grace in the fishing boat? Perhaps he knows too
there is no forgetting the gulf spanning the swaying vessels
But driven by an inner hunger, he would willingly abandon his
table manners, yet the local spices prove too much for his foreign constitution
strong as his stomach is, the radiant beauty draped in crimson
belongs to the other shore forever unreachable, eliciting glances from afar
yearnings, its shimmering reflections on the waves easily make one drown
On the embankment where heavenly feet so lithely tread, does he dare venture?
It’s clear a war will break out– flashing swords, dark smoke, perils
perilous0– still he loathes to keep warm behind the walls and sigh
He still wants to go up and down the streets and alleyways, to forget
his background, his upbringing, and live anew the lives of others
and from the hearty laughters, the gentle embrace of sea breeze
to paint afresh the story of his life and fate

August 1998


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