“An Elephant of Foam—Under COVID-19” by Chan Lai-kuen

An Elephant of Foam—Under COVID-19
by Chan Lai-kuen

July 2020

You know and I know
There is something here
An elephant of foam
Just we do not talk about it
About where it comes from
They know and we know
And they know that we know
Where it comes from
And how it floats
A blanket around me
A blanket around you
It’s big
It’s warm
It’s the colour of jade
It’s puffed, ruffled, beaded, enamelled
It touches, tickles, trickles drips, rips, 
Muffles, smothers
It doesn’t dream

A giant elephant of foam
That kisses
And kills, kills 
Friends, sisters, doctors, far, far away
You know the rest of the story
About where it comes from
You know and I know
The name of a city that was once beautiful
Now as I continue to write
My words shoot back at me like arrows
An iron cage drops
Not a metaphorical one
I see my teeth being knocked off,
The bones of my hands shattered
Not metaphorically
I speak in riddles
And I don’t like it

At night I dream of animals
Skunks, meerkats, masked palm civets, otters
I snuggle inside their fur
Before I too disappear
As foam 

Editor’s Note: This poem was specially commissioned for “The Writing Life Beyond COVID-10: A Virtual Residency” (3-9 August 2020, jointly organised by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and the newly founded Mongrel Writers Residence. Header image: BnF, Pelliot chinois 4524, newly digitised.

How to cite: Chan, Lai-kuen. “An Elephant of Foam—Under COVID-19.” Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 17 Aug. 2020, hkprotesting.com/2020/08/17/elephant/.

Chan Lai-kuen was born and raised in Hong Kong. She graduated from the Hong Kong Chinese University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (taken in Hong Kong) with BA degrees in English and fine art respectively. Her book of poetry Were the Singing Cats (2010) was awarded Recommendation Prize of the 11th Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature. Bilingual poetry selection City of Dead Stars was published by Association of Stories in Macao and Cerberus Press of Australia in 2014. Prose collection Kyoto that Cannot be Reached was published in 2015.

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