踢 (tek), 踢拖 (tek to), flip flop, 啪嗒啪嗒 (pakdap pakdap). Hazel Chen’s short poem, translated by Aaris Woo, brings outs the acoustic properties of the slipper in Cantonese while connecting fragments of daily life in Hong Kong. In this lyrical collage of the quotidian, an urgency underlies the loss of something mundane. A flip flop goes missing during a crackdown at a political demonstration but the speaker, refusing to let it go, insists on finding and protecting it.
In the first installment of the Transpacific Literary Project’s Slipper folio, this everyday item that fuels kicking and noise making is vital for the survival of a community.
Check back over the next two weeks to read more from the Slipper folio. And add oil, Hongkongers 香港人加油!
A cool night,
That lazy sound,
“How about the other one? Where did it go?”
He lost her.
The spindle of time twirls…
Down into the faded youth of the South,
Even the youngsters in great hues of red and green,
Have been dyed with the pale tint of melancholy.
Why did they kick at one another?
She’d lost a shoe while running.
The slender ankles of young girl,
Had tread moonlight into pieces, as well as his heart.
Later, she became someone’s mother,
One who could so indifferently take off a shoe,
From its heel,
And fiercely attack,
A cockroach, small and flying.
Another night, another shoe, another blood.
“It’s only lost,” he thought,
Those corpses unidentifiable beyond recognition,
And those life-defining women’s feet.
Even later, on that summer day with a yellow umbrella,
Torrential rain swept over the city.
Their tents were destroyed while they dreamt.
So they picked up the pace, running on asphalt,
Oh, no, oh, no—dropped a shoe.
“What’s lost is lost,” sounded out a desolate voice.
Dead bodies strewn everywhere under the incandescent light.
A step and then another slowly forward, but he looked back.
“Only a flip-flop. Is it worth it?”
Don’t want to lose it this time,
It’s too easy to lose,
That easily obtainable everyday, the privilege of pompously casting off flip-flops.
It’s also for the graceful, rash, and kitschy her, the one who wears gold and silver together but would still bring out a bowl of noodles in the depth of night.
It’s still one’s own foot and one’s own road,
Wanting to pak-daap, pak-daap,
To carry on with this firm sound.
With love, with a flip-flop—with everything.