They all lie like fallen grapes; stewing there in the grass,
the tangy sweetness of haw flakes in their mouths;
tiny fingers tearing into those firecracker packets.
There they are: The Li Spies;
self-proclaimed ‘Chinese James Bonds’.
Running through the house in flashes of garish colour,
barring themselves in a forgotten bedroom
(Knock eight times. Password? Eight double-eight).
Stocking the fruit shop; big smiles just as much on display
as the stacks and stacks of Chinese gooseberries –
their sign so resolutely hand-lettered.
‘I’m not having the gwai loh claim them as their own,’ their father says;
wiry, smiling, framed by glasses; looking at the stock market.
‘Are we rich yet?’ they all ask; the reply never comes.
The Li Spies, they exist on maa faa and eat dau saa straight;
‘What’s that in your lunchbox?’ the kids in class ask, faces screwed up.
The Li spies lose their Bond bravado – they eat in a group, lunchbox lids up.
‘We’re the Li spies,’ they say. ‘The best in the world,’ –
they don’t need any new members on the team.
Eight double-eight. Don’t be lax, la. This base is secure; this room full of abandoned calligraphy.
These Li Spies, forever running from explosions in explosions of pastel;
they bite into life like an overripe fruit; on the damp grass
at the crowded house on Chelsea Street – looking in the clouds for signs of James Bond.
We are still here; we still live down Jesse and Haining Street, our eyes tired from late nights and early mornings and bitter anger we cannot be rid of; we remain singing a silent song to express the opposite of feeling, with no vocabulary left we resort to hiding in objects, in city lights, in the moon, in fireworks and star-filled nights; we are attracted to bright things like magpies, ripping the glimmer from streetlights and swallowing it whole; we float around kitchens and watch the mothers cook for their children who convince themselves that they no longer hold any ties to us, who throw away their great-grandmother’s paintings and jade jewellery because they deem it sentimental trash; we lie on Leper Island’s exposed rock, imagining what it would be like to die; the closest we get to Death is seeing him sometimes when we stare into a dying man’s eyes, ready for him to join us in this floating mass of dissatisfaction; our bones will forever remain in a place that is not our home; we are nameless nothingness to the world, men who speak in either whispers or gibberish; even now our thoughts sound like the noise a shell makes when you hold it up to your ear, shshsshshshsh, but not like a mother hushing a child, no, this sound is like static or rain or someone whistling in the next room, on standby while we wait for eternity, a meaningless conglomeration of spirits all trying to reach the next life and failing to ever make the step; we remain in the coils of a snake, a creature so often made out to be evil when it is simply following its nature; we hide in old opium bottles and become vaguely amused when we are mistaken for demons, but we only laugh to pretend this anarchy brings us any kind of amusement; now that we have all of time to live, we find that we were never truly living after all.
Cadence Chung is a 15-year-old high school student who loves storytelling, no matter what medium that story is told through. She is inspired by classic literature and finds it fascinating how our past has influenced so much of our current-day attitudes. She is currently working on a poetry book about Chinese New Zealanders called The Ancient Scripts of Tomorrow.