PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 12:00am

An Old Colonial Building

by P K Leung

Through the sunlight and shadow

dust swirls,

through the scaffolding raised-up around

the colonial edifice, over the wooden planks

men live on to raise it brick by brick,

the imperial

image of it persisting right down, sometimes,

to the bitter soil in the foundation, sometimes finding, too,

the noble height of a rotunda, the wide, hollow corridors

leading sometimes to blocked places, which, sometimes,

knocked open, are stairs down to ordinary streets.

Down familiar alcoves sometimes brimming

with blooms sometimes barren I go to xerox

glancing at the images caught in the circular pond,

now showing the round window in the cupola as duckweed drifting,

day and night caught in the surface, no longer textbook

clean, but murky, the naive goldfish searching

mindlessly around in it, shaking the pliant lotus stems

and the roots feeling for earth, swirling orange and white,

gills opening and leeching, in and out of the high window bars.

Might all the pieces of ruins put together present

yet another architecture? Ridiculous the great heads

on money,

laughable the straight faces running things. We pass in

this corridor

in the changing surface of the pond by chance

our reflections rippling a little. We'd rather not bend;

neither of us is in love with flags or fireworks.

So what's left are these fragmentary, unrepresentative words,

not uttered amidst the buildings of chrome and glass, but beside a circular pond riddled with patterns of moving signs.

Leung Ping-kwan is the author of more than 30 books, including poetry and critical essays on local literature, film and culture in English and Chinese. He is also a translator and teacher of creative writing at Lingnan University's Department of Chinese. This poem is one of six by him in City Voices: Hong Kong Writing In English 1945 To The Present, edited by Xu Xi and Mike Ingham and published by Hong Kong University Press to coincide with the literary festival.