Beginner’s Wall, Shek O

Big waves lick boulders above the sea level.
            A typhoon brought salt, now dusty,
over volcanic cliffs, where we sit.
            We pick up small pieces of graphite,
trailing our spot to prove their colouration.
            I lie like seaweed drying for consumption,
arms stretched next to my ears, and stare
            at the sky wide open, seamless with the sea,
a gradient of indigo and turquoise where
            ribbons of sand and foam intersperse.
If you look hard enough, waves from afar
            carry incessant gouges like woodcut. 

A challenge I can’t take without liquid courage:
            rock-climbers set ropes, fix harnesses
and check helmets for each other, trusting
            their weight with muscle strength and grip.
Giving in to gravity, too, is sometimes crucial.
            Let hips sink onto an invisible chair mid-air
for rest. The hard part is to know you won’t fall.
            Tension! Tension! Climbers’ partners
on the ground look up for commands. The language
            one must learn facing speechless crags.
The wind growls, uncritical to recent histories
            of survival out of besieged brick walls.

by Cheng Tim Tim

This week we feature the second of three poems by poets appearing in the exciting new online festival Poetics of Home – a Chinese Diaspora Poetry Festival that is currently underway and continues until 5 October. The festival is co-ordinated by our Brookes colleague Dr Jennifer Wong, and is designed to connect and showcase the diverse works by established and emerging Anglophone poets writing across the Chinese diaspora. It features a wonderfully rich line-up of speakers from all over the world, such as Marilyn Chin, Mary Jean Chan, Susheila Nasta, Hannah Lowe, and Will Harris, who will be taking part in poetry readings and discussions on a range of urgent themes. The festival is presented in collaboration with Wasafiri and the Institute of English Studies, with the support of the Lottery Fund from Arts Council England. For more details about the festival and to sign up for the events, visit the festival website.

‘Beginner’s Wall, Shek O’ is copyright © Cheng Tim Tim, 2021. The poem will soon be appearing in Berfrois, and we’re grateful to the editors there for allowing it to be reproduced here.

Cheng Tim Tim is a poet, teacher and music enthusiast from Hong Kong, currently reading for an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. Her poems have found homes in BerfroisdiodeCha: An Asian Literary JournalCordite Poetry Review, among others. She was nominated for Best Small Fiction by SAND Journal in 2020. She is one of the co-founding editors of EDGE: HKBU Creative Journal. She is working on chapbooks which explore Hong Kong’s natural, urban and emotional landscapes, as well as desire and rituals through the lens of tattooing. She loves artworks that heal and provoke. Follow Cheng Tim Tim on Twitter.

Cheng Tim Tim will be reading at the Poetry and Society event today (Tuesday 28 September) at 1pm, and you can join via Zoom at this link. The event also features Laura Jane Lee, Natalie Linh Bolderston, and Sarah Howe.

Later today at 6pm, Poetics of Home presents Cultural Hybridity: Will Harris, Jay G Ying, and Helen Bowell in conversation with Lucienne Loh (co-hosted with the British Chinese Studies Network). Find more details on the Eventbrite page.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.