An Old Colonial Building
by P K Leung
Through the sunlight and shadow
through the scaffolding raised-up around
the colonial edifice, over the wooden planks
men live on to raise it brick by brick,
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
laughable the straight faces running things. We pass in
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.