Jason Eng Hun Lee

The Edge of Vast Shores

But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Matthew Arnold, ‘Dover Beach’

Standing at the edge of vast shores
I hear ancestor spirits
invoke their unbidden siren call

so the sea bursts as they command
the clap of waves that run
between the current and the tide’s fall

and ‘home, home’ come their lilting cries
as their foamy voices roll
over the aspirating surf.

Their arcane faces contort in my mind
and whisper for me to beach myself
on immense rocks that rise nearby

as ‘home, home’ their booming sighs
reverberate against cliffs,
breaking in tandem, uprearing ties.

The sand begins to clutch my feet
and sink back through the eddying swirl
but as my blood lies, constricted in this swell

I pick up a stone, cold as my thoughts
and skim the murmuring waters across –
as the exile in me replies:

I see forebears thrashing horizons near
and wide
to yoke the seas’ great churning tides.

I greet them daily beneath chequered skies,
bid them goodnight in a foreign tongue
and rebound the ocean’s sigh.

I see mother and father sunder worlds before me
compressing time and space,
compressing culture, compressing me.

But my progeny will be distilled
in different blood from pressing bodies.
They too will come upon this shore.

Roiling in the sands of time
they will find their own skin
rubbing off birth marks.

They too will resist the lull of rocks
and rise up from the ocean’s womb,
standing on the edge of something new.

Jason Eng Hun Lee was born in the UK in 1984. He has been published in Acumen, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and in the following anthologies: The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear), The Poets’ Quest for God (Eyewear), Quixotica: Poems East of La Mancha (Chameleon) and Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz (Chameleon). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his first collection Beds in the East was a finalist for the Hong Kong University Prize (2010) and runner-up for the Melita Hume Prize (2012). He is also a guest editor/judge/reviewer for Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and regular contributor to the Hong Kong literary scene. He has a PhD in English Literature and currently lectures in 21st Century Fiction at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Jason Eng Hun Lee was born in the UK in 1984. He has been published in Acumen, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and in the following anthologies: The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear), The Poets’ Quest for God (Eyewear), Quixotica: Poems East of La Mancha (Chameleon) and Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz (Chameleon). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his first collection Beds in the East was a finalist for the Hong Kong University Prize (2010) and runner-up for the Melita Hume Prize (2012). He is also a guest editor/judge/reviewer for Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and regular contributor to the Hong Kong literary scene. He has a PhD in English Literature and currently lectures in 21st Century Fiction at Hong Kong Baptist University.