the red grapefruit

which are sweeter? ©papa osmubal

which are sweeter? ©papa osmubal

the red grapefruit

agnes lam 

you cut open the grapefruit
cutting carefully
like tearing down my cocoon
the grapefruit is opened
into two red suns
I feel so free

flying out from the cocoon like the summer butterfly
flowers are full of my eyes
sweet as the grapefruit’s red
the two pieces of the fruit stay firm together
plentiful like the smile of first love
it’s thus I fall in love with red

you cut the grapefruit into eight pieces
red mouthful by mouthful
it’s like eating my sweetest memories
I take up the last segment
and kissing this last piece of red
my heart becomes pale

the taste of a grapefruit
like your love to me
sweet and plump to see
bitter to the taste
like sorrow

when there is no more flesh in the grapefruit
the inner skin of the fruit is
so pale as to make me cherish
that sugary smile of the red fruit that was

I hold the pale skins in my hand
mind and eye bringing back the original
it’s like letting the cocoon wrap my body
and now I can see
the outer skin of the grapefruit
was never red at all


our sorry

in deep thought  ©papa osmubal

in deep thought ©papa osmubal

our sorry

agnes lam

your love
is one apology added to another, equal to
the one that I glean like a beggar
but I couldn’t bear to swallow
that apology with another

that is my love

the only footnote for our relationship


light ©papa osmubal

light ©papa osmubal

agnes lam

if you know
the pain of
standing naked
in the snow
you won’t let me
stand naked
if I understand
the fragility
of a naked body
in fire
I won’t leave you
like that
If we all know
love will strip us
romance will burn us
we surely will not
walk into the wilderness
sow the seed
to let the warmth grow
we will not
turn over the secret of the butterfly lover
to fulfill our story
in that winter night
we will not
even if we are eroded by love
and overwhelmed by the soil
we will not
at least you won’t
let a past without “if”
drive us to the crucible
where love has burnt into ash

last night of bela vista

macau against the dim of night ©papa osmubal

macau against the dim of night ©papa osmubal

last night of bela vista
agnes lam

I came from such a city
when I came
to the high place
the aged building was dim against the sea
men from the Atlantic ocean were cherishing a history
Chinese and Portuguese were arguing
whether it was handover or transition
let us toss down this half glass of red wine
for our condolences to the Bela Vista
thinking of this hundred year old hotel
in the new phase of our history
one has to keep herself for the one representative of one country
as a married virgin a little wife
the Jazz players could hardly contain their sadness
kept playing the postcolonial Fado
the waiter in white starch
walked out towards columns in the khaki corridor
watered the oleander deeper red than the wine
the flowers were counting
the number of shadows
rained down with the mist
in the deeps of the haze
dazzling lights at the end of the corridor
the Bela views were all gone
on the ceiling of the corridor
no colour dropped from the pure white of the hanging fan
it turned around like the still days that never began
there was no today and no tomorrow
no tears and no need to say goodbye
but life had to start from the Fado of the farewell dinner
the first song was not ended yet
the clandestine couple had tossed down their glasses
the dry reds eyes had told each other
to keep tonight
to do that under the oleander tree
like the plot of the hackneyed war time love movie
history could be like this
like the never ended invasion and the evacuation
these in a circle
remembering there was a tomorrow
the lingering couple under the oleander went back to the long table
let us forget the fragrance of oleander in the ecstasy of wine
let the jazz players in red be our backdrop
and sit still like the perfumed and gorgeous colonial picture
under the light of the tossing glasses
the silver knives had drawn out lines and delicate lines
men and women were elegantly dressed
the blood of the meat on snow white china
clammy and bloody
let us toss it down
and toss down the Bela Vista
we cannot adore anymore

the apple

which ones will you eat? ©papa osmubal

which ones will you eat? ©papa osmubal

the apple
agnes lam

The apple
glistening with dew–
it has not sinned
and belongs to paradise.


agnes lam


Agnes Lam Iok Fong was born in Macau, and is a poet, columnist on two dailies in Macao, and current Vice President of Macau PEN. She has published four books in Macao and mainland China; of these two are collections of poems and two of non-fiction. Three of her poems won the Macao Literature Prize in the 1990s. She is chief editor of New Generation magazine. She teaches broadcast and print journalism at the University of Macau.