Jeremy Fernando presents: ‘Cantonese Idioms’ by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

Cantonese Idioms

by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

No, you didn’t give up
a whole forest for me.
I am not a tree.
I am not even a kind of flora
that nature is willing to keep.

If teeth can be used as gold,
wouldn’t everyone melt them
to make jewelry
and replace the teeth
with blue whales’ bones?

Four horses, all whipped,
fail to chase after an uttered word.
Who knows if the mammals
have not been drugged
or who they really serve?

A dragon is bullied
by baby shrimps in shallow water.
It should inhale deeply and
breathe those lowly creatures in.
That said, who put the dragon there?

If you deceive someone,
you put her in a sealed drum.
Can you also treat her as a feline
and simultaneously experiment
on the physics of quantum?


Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is a writer, editor, translator and academic. She is the founding co-editor of Asian Chathe first online literary journal based in Hong Kongand an editor of the academic journal, Victorian Network. She has also edited or co-edited several volumes of poetry and short fiction published in Hong Kong, including Desde Hong Kong: Poets in conversation with Octavio Paz. Her own poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times and the Forward Prize, while her translations can be found in World Literature TodayChinese Literature TodayDrunken BoatPathlight, among other places. Her first poetry collection Hula Hooping was published earlier this year, and her first short story collection Her Name Upon The Strand is forthcoming in 2016. Ho is an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she teaches fiction, poetics and modern drama.

‘Cantonese Idioms’ first appeared in the ‘(Re)Views’ issue of One Imperative, which can be found here:

The featured image — ‘Here are two angry nudes’ — is a sketching by Sara Chong.

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