Is that love, for our own sake we piled up your bodies

Language: Chinese
Poet: Chung Kwok Keung
Translator: May Huang

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Is that love, for our own sake we piled up your bodies

A poem by Chung Kwok Keung translated by May Huang

Contextual Note: “Housework” tracks its speaker from childhood to fatherhood, as he watches his relationship with chickens change—and along with it, his understanding of love and loss. The poem was composed in 2004, a time when the h5n1 influenza was resurfacing in Hong Kong. The first outbreak of the virus in humans occurred in Hong Kong in 1997; in December of that year, the government ordered the slaughter of 1.3 million chickens to control the spread of the virus.

Chung Kwok Keung (鍾國強) is a Hong Kong poet, essayist, and critic. A graduate of the University of Hong Kong, Chung has received numerous Youth Literary Awards and Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, among other accolades. He is the author of eight poetry collections, including The Growing House, Umbrellas that Blossom on the Road, and A Bright House Standing in Light Rain.

May Huang (黃鴻霙) was born in Taiwan and raised in Hong Kong. She graduated from the University of Chicago and is a member of the Third Coast Translators Collective. Her work has appeared in InTranslation, Asymptote, Cha, and elsewhere. She is a mentee in alta’s 2020 Emerging Translators Mentorship Program.

家務

喔喔的我從沒有聽懂你的語言
我提起一個掏空了腹腔的身體

那是愛嗎?我在黝暗的禾桿窩裏拾起一枚蛋
仍然溫暖,回頭便見你在柴木堆裏探出頭來
喔喔的,像要對我説一些怎也説不清楚的話

那是一個下著細雨的下午嗎?我做著好像永遠做不完的家課
抬頭便見你在園裏翻耙泥土,蓬起的翅膀下是三五小雞雛
怯怯地探頭,忽然急步躥出,爭相啄食你嘴裏的甚麼
我看著你頻頻點頭,在微雨裏,凝望小小翅膀抖掉閃亮的水珠

那是愛嗎?我看著雞雛慢慢變掉了顏色
下雨和晴天之間,我學懂更多時態和語氣的變換
看見勞累的母親突然動氣,向我掄起砧板上的菜刀
看見桌上擺了一碗熱氣騰騰的餐蛋公仔麵
待我吃了好去應付午後悶長的升中試

喔喔的你在尋找你的蛋嗎?我在找我的嗎?
空空的方格待要填上甚麼呢?我望向窗外
斜風細雨又見你翻耙濕潤的泥土,深深的
一個彷彿永無止境的窟窿,藏下你的希望我的
希望麼?我看見漫天降下熱騰騰的蛋
我的喉管哽著,筆下一個字也寫不出來

那是愛嗎?一個下著冷雨的冬天
我看見你挺高了喉管,頷下的羽毛還未飄落
便見你把鮮紅的血瘋狂注入奶白的瓷碗
來不及發出喔喔的聲音,你已躺在沸水盆邊
掏空了腹腔,瞪看自己一一鋪陳在地的內臟
然後在茫茫蒸氣中,你從一個白瓷盅裏升起
模糊了揭起蓋子的手,模糊了不斷增添的皺紋

而雨下了多時還在下我還在做我做不完的家務
下雨和晴天之間,我學懂更多簡單的方法解決複雜的問題
你有無端抑鬱的時刻,我學懂在旁靜靜地看
靜靜地洗瓶開奶,更換尿布,小小的搖鈴靜靜地搖
你有無端暴烈的時刻,我學懂吞吐言辭
收拾破碎,學懂在關鍵時刻,緊緊的從後緊緊抱著你
彷彿一對沉默厚重的翅膀,在漫天毛羽紛飛中
無有流血,無有掙扎,無有誰失聲委地

那是愛嗎?我買了一個九吋寬燉盅
內外洗淨,然後到市場買一隻母雞
隔著竹籠,我一眼便看到那異樣的眼神
沒有淚滴,只有那熟悉的,微微的
喔喔的聲音。然後寂滅。我看見血水
從溝渠流出。我看見肚腹
全掏空了。深深的,像一個口
甚麼話也說不出來。我揮一揮手
斷然拒絕店主手上閃亮的內臟

雨還在下水氣還在蒸騰我提起掏空腹腔的身體
喔喔的我好像聽到窗外傳來喔喔的聲音
我學懂水的份量蔥的性情火候的大小
端上飯桌的蒸氣準確盤旋在晴雨之間
當黃油油的表層倒影臉上凝結的空氣
孩子又打噴嚏了是誰忘了添衣?
母親話來簡潔我聽到話筒那邊老房子的寂寞
春節回來麼元宵回來麼那麼中秋呢?
井水清洌風爐迸裂柴木還是去年的麼?
日子瘦得乾癟許是到了屠宰歡慶的時光

那是愛嗎?我看到你喙裏流著稀液如淚滴
那是流感麼我看見滿城的人拉長了面容
下雨和晴天之間,我學懂穿戴面罩和塑料保護衣
深深的翻耙泥土做那永遠做不完的工作
喔喔的我又聽到那聲音那聲音若斷若續
在一個一個飽滿的黑色塑料袋內密封了口
那是愛嗎為了孩子我們把你驅除出菜譜
那是愛嗎,為了我們我們把你的軀體一一堆疊
像擁擠的房子在清晨在黑夜在關緊了的城市
我聽到那聲音那聲音就在不遠就在腳下
還未聽懂那語言便​​像日子般沉埋下去

Housework

Oh oh-ing, I have never understood your language
I picked up a body with an emptied belly

Was that love? From the dark depths of the nest I took an egg
Still warm. Turning around, I saw you stick your head out from firewood,
Oh oh-ing, as if you wanted to tell me something you could never explain

Was that an afternoon of fine rain? I was doing almost never-ending chores
When I saw you rake the soil, while a flock of chicks under your wings
Looked around nervously, leapt, fought over something in your mouth
I watched you nod in the rain, gaze at glistening beads shaken off by small wings   

Was that love? I watched chicks slowly change their color
Between rainy and sunny days, I understood more about shifts in tense and tone
Saw a weary mother suddenly grow irritated, brandish the kitchen knife at me
Saw piping hot spam and egg noodles on the table for me to eat
So I could face the afternoon’s tedious high school entrance exams

Oh oh-ing, were you looking for your eggs? Was I looking for mine?
How to fill the empty grids? I looked out the window
At light wind and fine rain and saw you raking the wet mud, a deep
And almost never-ending cavity, hiding your hopes
And my hopes? I saw piping hot eggs descend from the sky
I felt a lump in my throat, and could not write a single word

Was that love? On a rainy winter’s day
I watched you raise your throat, the feathers under your chin not yet fallen
And saw you pour bright red blood into a milk-white porcelain bowl
With no time to cry oh-oh, you already lay by the hot water basin
Your stomach emptied, staring at your own scattered organs
Then in the vast steam, you rose from a porcelain pot
Blurring the hand that lifted the lid, blurring the ever-increasing wrinkles

It rains and keeps raining I am still finishing never-ending housework
Between rain and sun, I learn simpler ways to solve complicated problems
When you are gloomy for no reason, I learn to watch quietly from the side
Quietly clean the nursing bottle, change diapers, shake a small jingle
When you are violent for no reason, I learn to swallow my words
Clean up broken shards, squeeze you tightly from behind at crucial moments
Like a pair of silent heavy wings in a sky swirling with feathers
Without blood, without struggle, without anyone losing their voice 

Is that love? I bought a nine-inch wide steaming pot
Washed it inside out, then went to the store to buy a hen
Outside the bamboo cage, I saw with my eye that peculiar gaze
No tears, only that familiar, faint
Oh-oh. Then silence. I saw blood
Flow from a ditch. I saw a belly
Emptied out. Gaping, like a mouth
That cannot say anything. I waved my hand
And refused the shiny organs the shopkeeper held out

The rain keeps falling the steam keeps rising I pick up the body with the emptied belly
Oh-oh, I almost hear an oh-oh from outside the window
I learn the water’s volume the onion’s temperament the cooking flame’s size
The steam we bring onto the dining table spirals exactly between rain and shine
When the oily yellow surface reflects the condensation on my face
A kid sneezes again who forgot to layer up?
Mother’s words are concise I hear in the microphone that old house’s loneliness
Will you be back for the New Year for the Lantern Festival and what about Mid-Autumn?
The well water is clear the tea stove cracked and is the firewood still last year’s?
The days are shriveled thin perhaps it is time to celebrate slaughter

Is that love? I see a thin fluid flow from your beak like tears
Is that the flu I see a whole city of people with long faces
Between rainy and sunny days, I learn to wear masks and hazmat suits
Deeply raking the mud, doing that never-ending work
Oh-oh, I hear again that voice that voice stopping and going
Mouths sealed in every stuffed black plastic bag
Is that love, for the children we removed you from the cookbook
Is that love, for our own sake we piled up your bodies
Like houses crowded together in the morning at night in a shut-up city
I hear that voice that voice is nearby is at my feet
Without understanding it that language is buried like the days