sorry to ramble but I’m fuming
about MIL’s advice as to which yoghurt
we should buy for DD. She dotes on
every fridge magnet or calendar
with her grandchild’s photo in it.
Today, my friend coos at Nella
doesn’t she look gorgeous, just like her dad.
On my way to the playgroup,
I wonder what will happen if I refuse
to push the buggy any further
(I am on the top of a slope).
Hate its poorly-designed wheels,
its beige canopy.
For my birthday, I’d like
to ask DH for a weekend getaway:
a hotel room with a nice kettle,
just me and my thoughts.
This evening, I deliberately make
chicken pasta with green pesto.
And when DH is in bed, I remove thin metal
from my finger, sit there in darkness, thinking.
Mr Yee met Jia Jee in Shanghai.
Rickshaws, hounds, uniforms, guns.
In the 1940s nothing was permanent;
and family and love, a meagre ration.
Take my body. Take my loneliness.
War, shortages, traitors, guns.
Jia Jee assumed the role of Mrs Mai,
a student temptress for Mr Yee.
Back home, the women played mahjong
pong pong pong
Then the fall of Hong Kong.
War, curfews, refugees, guns.
Christmas 1941. In the Peninsula Hotel,
the colony surrendered:
a woman’s body to the shinto soldiers.
Their ghostly faces, their cruel hands.
That Christmas when bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.
Sold to the enemy and forgotten,
who could rescue Jia Jee?
In her cherry blossoms qipao
she sang to the enemy.
She sang of a saddened body.
She forgot when the war started,
stopped believing it would end.
Homeless, she’s left with nothing but a song.
Between blades of grass, we asked each other about our own childhoods, and I told you my love for the anime I Love Cream Marron, how beautiful she is when she transforms herself into a purple-haired singer with her magic pouch.
The other day, you texted me saying, just checking in to see how you are, sent me photos of Lukas playing obstacle race in the garden. I needed a holiday, a real one, one away from the family.
Pigeons pecking on the grass. Two bigger boys comparing their Pokemon cards in the playground. In our local park, you talked about the days you studied at Guildhall, when you dreamt of becoming an actress. All the odd jobs you did back then to get by. Every part you got auditioned for: from a village baker in the local pantomime, to Anna in The King and I. I loved it, every moment on the stage.
Once, you taught me how to map out the furthest stars with ‘Star Walk’, your phone a planetarium glowing in the dark, in your hand.
Born and grew up in Hong Kong, Jennifer Wong is the author of several collections, including Goldfish (Chameleon Press) and a pamphlet, Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl (Bitter Melon Poetry 2019). Her latest collection, 回家 Letters Home (Nine Arches Press 2020)—which explores the complexities of history, migration and translation—has been named the PBS Wild Card Choice by the Poetry Book Society. She studied at University College, Oxford and completed a creative writing PhD from Oxford Brookes University. She teaches creative writing at Poetry School, Oxford Brookes and City Lit. Her poems, reviews and poetry translations have appeared in Wasafiri, World Literature Today, Oxford Poetry, Oxford Review of Books, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, The Rialto, Magma Poetry, Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review, Asian Review of Books and others. In 2020, she founded an online poetry reading series called What We Read Now, featuring reading and conversations with international emerging and established poets. She was the writer-in-residence at Wasafiri in 2021, and a visiting fellow at Oxford TORCH this year.