eight temple poems

chinese temple ©papa osmubal

chinese temple ©papa osmubal

eight temple poems

petra seak


the city hub

the long-sleeved shirt
dusty but faithful
goes too well with this man

the hands are wrinkled
that pile up his life on the cart –
cardboard, newspaper, bottles

a natural fragrance
provides him with personal space
than you and I can never have
in the hub of this city

bao gong temple

to a Tai Sui:

increase of height
need not make you proud

your work
is to settle discord

you stirve
to keep balance

to Tai Shi worshippers:

the sudden decrease
of your Tai Sui’s height
does not indicate
his high efficiency
or large-mindedness

it suggests your
need not to offend

only this way
can you keep balance

devout ©papa osmubal

devout ©papa osmubal

kun iam tong

this sky was not
scrawled by fumes
but wind

in steps
of the dust
and these withered leaves
become vivid
against the green pallor
of the wall

even in winter
this place was hot
now in the mid-autumn wind
just a few pilgrims
treading the desert
taking careful sips of
the water bottle
just a few drops left

now I knew
summer was the only season
in this place

lin fung temple (lotus temple)

déjà vu

the gold paper
is not for you
yet the smoke chokes you
as it did in Humen Port
when you burnt
the twenty thousand cases

so we see
how your robe
blackens with pride
making your image
more vivid

happy monks ©papa osmubal

happy monks ©papa osmubal

na tcha temple

behind the smoke
heads moving
in the mottled air,
laughter and

sky still undimmed
the stone façade stands sacred

little girl
careful but clumsy
placing joss sticks
in the censer

takes out her roller skates
‘be careful’, her mother says
‘yours are not wind-fire wheels’

temple of lu progenitor

so much choice
choose a new god every day here

and this is a home not just for gods

chinese temple ©papa osmubal

chinese temple ©papa osmubal

the old kun iam temple

two trunks
old but straight,
direct light
into the yard

this is where dust
makes its epiphany

a prayer
eyes closed tight
a pile of golden paper swaying
lotus shaped
murmuring in dialect
seems familiar

this is where secrets
are kept and are revealed

tin hou temple

you are swallowed
in such sea of trees
that never refuse
the generous release
of buses and factories

sound of sweeping
precise as a clock’s ticktocks
takes me to far back

when people might have choked
on endless smoke

when there were not such blocks around
or cranes

but only fishing boats
shuttling on the sea
much wider than now


bamboo temple (chok lam tsi)*

at lou lim ieok garden, macau ©papa osmubal

at lou lim ieok garden, macau ©papa osmubal

bamboo temple (chok lam tsi)*
— petra seak

smoke eats up the seen           
mouthful by mouthful
          smoke grown still
     brings memories


the coins under you, turtle,
show me the fact of luck
pure accident each time
     your head’s hit
        how will you spend this fortune?


gold paper can be made into
but what makes hands do this?
                 the ash
       like wings, sticks to us, black
  reluctant to fly away


        devotees come here to play
 the longer the joss stick
the more pious they are
but isn’t the city itself
a censer?
steel and windows and smog

* from Poetry Macao

petra seak


Petra Seak is as an MA in English Literature from the University of Macau. With Kit Kelen she published a volume of translations and adaptations of the Southern Tang poet Li Yu. Petra Seak’s book of poems about Macao temples was published by Association of Stories in Macau (ASM).