translated by May Huang
A photograph of a raucous public festival where teams of rowers in dragon boats traverse a river
Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

The festival is here we play football by the door
Even in a tight space my son can nail a kickoff
Skilled at the nutmeg, I plan to place the ball
Between the tree and hedge, a corner
The shadows are dark as always

The festival is here my son games with cousins
Real Madrid and EFL are down 12 to 0
Beckham fouls Beckham—Penalty! Penalty!
I flip the paper’s looming headlines
The shady real estate agent holds law above family
Cackling, he slaps yesterday’s self onto the paper’s ass

The festival is here we eat meat
Spit bones, noisily slurp soup
The paddles they lift on TV are neat as chopsticks,
High as splashes. We down all the Tsingtao
And our eyes jump into the Shing Mun River
To rinse away last year’s bad luck

The festival is here we pick wampee fruits 
My wife says they’re sweet I say sour
The darker ones are ripest she says
I bring a bunch to my son he says no
I bring one to my daughter she walks away

The festival is here news of murder is on TV
Steam rises and mother’s soup turns tastier
Father says you must wait to slaughter chicken
After plain zongzi our table needs a little sugar

The festival is here I stop asking about homework
Yet my son asks why the man jumped in
I say perhaps, perhaps he had something to prove
Aha, but in truth he proved he could not swim
Yes, in today’s age, this is why you learn to swim

The festival is here we get to talk nonsense
We sing and forget lyrics
We gather and go home
The festival is here we dive into the Cross-Harbor Tunnel
Thankful for the whir of engines
Hypnotizing us like waves

Translation from the Chinese

Editorial note: May Huang was a mentee in the American Literary Translators Association’s 2020 Emerging Translator Mentorship Program.

Derek Chung is an acclaimed poet, essayist, and critic from Hong Kong. He is the recipient of numerous Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, among other accolades. His poetry collections include The Growing House, Umbrellas That Blossom on the Road, and A Bright House Standing in Light Rain.

May Huang is a literary translator from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Her work has been published in Circumference, InTranslation, Asymptote, and elsewhere.