Poetry | Two Poems by Sam Cheuk | Issue 41 (May, 2021)

from a forthcoming collection on Hong Kong protests and their aftermath titled Postscripts from a City Burning to be published by Palimpsest Press in Oct 2021.

Nov 16, 2019

I used to be a teacher.
What am I to say
when a student responds,
after confessing I am
too chicken shit to stay,
“We’ll fight for all of us”?

They announce their names,
yelling “I will not kill myself”
while being dragged away,
in case their name is mistaken
for one fallen by mistake.

The student is still
messaging me via
an encrypted app, assuring
he’s safe for my sake.

If you were to die,
don’t die for my sake.
Die of old age, one
neither of us can envision;
die for love, die of earned
sadness, sickness, but
not this, not for this,
not now, wait it out
till my parents die,
till I die, stay.

Nov 27, 2019 (2)

Document the brief life I have
had with you. Note the contours
of my clavicles, times when I chortle
at your jokes, days when I retreat
into myself, looking for answers.

I haven’t found none, time better
spent with you, but I had to look,
to find someone worth your time.
We haven’t got much left.

This is what I will remember:
your outtie belly button,
your rehearsed fury at the waiter
the time when the food ran late,
knives and forks suspended in the air.
The way you snickered beneath
the orange-lit alleyway, taking off
your respirator to win a dare. ‘Twas fun.

Before we grow up into others,
remember our pulsing hearts
pressed against each other’s,
palm to palm. We were young.
Let’s not forget our errors.

Sam Cheuk is a Hong Kong-born Canadian poet and author of Love Figures (Insomniac Press, 2011), Deus et Machina (Baseline Press, 2017) and the upcoming collection Postscripts from a City Burning (Palimpsest Press, 2021) on the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and their aftermath. He holds an MFA in creative writing from New York University and BA in English literature from University of Toronto. He is currently working on the second half of the diptych, tentatively titled Marginalia, that examines the function, execution, and generative potential behind censorship. #香港人加油 #StandWithHongKong #MilkTeaAlliance

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