**Part 1 of artist/scholar Linda Lai’s multi-episode narrative poem on living across two centuries, a contemplation on time and space as experienced… written over a cup of hot chocolate – English version. 2018年元旦日,黎肖嫻用了一個小時呷著一杯和暖的巧克力。這樣,兩個世紀的心情、不同的時空對策忽然安好坐落在一個思維地表之上,連線起來。**原作者中文版按此**

I’ve Crossed the Threshold of the Millennium (1) | Linda Chiu-han LAI

 

I’ve crossed the threshold, from
the 20th to 21st century, not realizing I did when I did.
Hastily grabbed video fragments pale and blue –
that’s all that I’ve got marking millennium festivities.
I resided midway up the hill in Central back then
Yet for reasons forgotten I was drifting in Kwai Fong
on that very evening, the eve of 2000.
Red button pressed:
Two kids swaying their butts swinging the pulse,
Several young women stamping mechanistic-rhythmically
their bare shoulders marshalling
them throwing arms-up in the air left and right, right and left.
Camera panned, resting on two cops in casual wear
— and how did I know? I just did.
Observing or safe-guarding, dins and drones splashed all over up and down and north south east west
A solid sign blinking “2000” above the centre-stage
Naming the event, rescuing it from anonymity.

January 1, 2018, on the northeastern edge of an oval island floating on the Atlantic alongside its Macaronesian siblings…
On the table top of a sidewalk café it landed — the sudden arrival of the hazy flickers of “31st of December 1999 HK” …
The turn of the century already knew it all: anticipating loose disparate intentions to add up to
Anti-festivities in the autumn of 2014 –
Full spectacle, full surveillance
All played out day and night on major thoroughfares.

I crossed the threshold. Born in the 20th century, now
Living the Twenty-first: two centuries one same world (?)
Every epoch… not only dreams the one to follow but, in thus dreaming, precipitates its awakening.” — Walter Benjamin
Dreaming is a bridge that blurs
the separation of anticipation from retrospection.

Nothing changes in people from one generation to another except the way of seeing and being seen.
The streets change, the way of being driven in the streets change, the buildings change, the comforts in the houses change, but the people from one generation in another do not change.” – Gertrude Stein

I crossed the threshold dividing two centuries.
1987. 1988. 1989. Those days…
I spent a whole night writing my mind to have it
Dispatched in post early Monday morning,
From the Chicago suburb to UC Berkeley.
As chance permitted, mail delivered Wednesday or Thursday and then –
As Friday arrived my nerves strained, me awaiting the postman’s delivery — but
News from Berkeley often only made it Saturday noon or more often
Sleazily arrived Monday morning.
My brewing thoughts streamed densely and intensely towards Berkeley,
From where a different aura blew back in my direction –
A different state of mind, light as smoke, broad-stroked, or finely procedural, or dashing off into infinite skies.
A dozen of US dollars spent every Saturday night –
to piece together which lines connected with what dots and if the dots met.
Then Monday crawled back and
my next letter was barely ready. 1987, 1988, 1989.
Too used to talking into the empty space spanning
across the Midwest and the coast on the West;
Our ties crafted in soliloquy – shooting words
that scheduled no meeting.
1990 the final trial – both back in Hong Kong.
Monologue is easy. Dialogue, how very weighty.

photo by Linda Lai

No more letter writing and waiting since then.
Am waiting at CX Lounge. Boarding in 10 minutes.
-Bon voyage.
Just landed.
-Enjoy your trip.
Hotel room is nice.
-Great. 🙂
Heavy traffic at Frankfurt. Plane needs defrosting.
-Hope problem gets solved soon.
At Waterstone. Great philosophy session.
-Enjoy.

Populating my daily landscape are
Human beings 20 to 30 years my junior.
Many of them rocked through June-Fourth ‘89
In their parents’ warm embrace.
Then came those who only heard of it.
Later on, they claimed only to recall as a kid
the two flags of the city hoisted side by side after 1997.
Later still, they knew only the flag of the Bauhinia.
As for now, most of them know about 1997 by hearsays.
I draw a long horizontal line on the globe with my intense gaze after which I follow
Like a long haul flight crossing the continents in half a day.
As for my young friends, there is only the here and the now…
There is only this point, that point, and those other points.
I look out through the plane’s window onto the expansive space
and what do I see?
Distance? Orientation? Direction? – all a matter of belief.
As for my young friends, they only need to look down and concentrate –
Running their fingers to cross the miles by the thousands.
Windows. Sure. But no inside or outside.

Indeed I crossed the threshold marking the millennium.

1992-1996. New York spread out in front of me. Step on.
Roaming through streets and avenues
Looking for a spot, an activity, something…
to entrench my fleeting presence.
Straight south from 125th Street Manhattan to 6th Street East Village through Broadway and
Further south to the Chinatown I walked and walked.
There was little cloistering or sitting down.
I walked to empty myself
The more I walked the more I craved to be empty
In order to be filled.
Roaming, strolling, drifting –
forms of knowledge, clutches of faith.

 

1996-2008. Moving 5 times between 6 addresses.
I have acquired the enchantment of Century 21:
In a square-meter work-space I command an ever-expanding unknown space.
Emptiness swells around me as I breathe freely.
Taking time to empty my mind.

 

Pablo Picasso: Picasso’s arrival in Paris, a self portrait (1901)

Brown blue fish tail narrow strips. Hum. Hum. Minute motion direction heart pounding skin vibrating. A piece of chocolate spent still not a word not a single word utters not a single utterable language. Leadership peanuts collective craving oily slippery woody-fishy flavour the aroma of rice in a cup that churns out coffee for strengthening for waving a pen racing through pages. Dream words nightmarish utterances i-i ya-ya i-yi-a-ya become songs or novels or poetry or ballads nothing settles in frame in order but a hiss of smoggy steamy smoke pure words, phrases, structures, naked utterances bare articulations. Curses break down revealing olive humour.Hypothesis. Speculations. Vaulting. Chippi chippi drizzling rain writing stories of the past-to-be. Old days present days all to be excavated for a trace of the city’s origins. Water and waves come washing me. Me. I. Drowned. Immersed. Drowned. Submerged. Contrasted. Constructed.

 

(… to be continued…)

1 January 2018, 4:00-5:00 pm, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain. (London time-zone)

 

Related post: Chinese version of the poem: 我跨過了兩個世紀的門檻 (一)http://floatingprojectscollective.net/coffee-fantasia/living-across-2-centuries01/