Ginny Ip

Translated from Cantonese

Mami (媽咪) told me when I was young
that I was special, cos I had three tongues –
most people only had one.
do be careful though
she’d warned,
one could nip the other when it wasn’t looking
and that would be Bad ().

the first one was Love () ,
which sat so naturally in my mouth that
soon it became my favourite one:
nine gorgeous tones that
danced around
and around.

but one day Ms. Davies with her clear blue eyes
got cross at me for using it
and on the playground at school,
the other kids laughed.
I did not understand why
they didn’t like the colours as well?

ashamed, I hissed in Tongue No. 2
that of Power (力量)
which most didn’t have
heads turned when I used it on the street
and that made me Proud (驕傲)

Mami used to say:
Learn to use this tongue well and
you will earn people’s Respect (尊敬)
I nodded though
I did not understand why
people were drawn to things they didn’t have? 

the last one was Danger (危險
a troublemaker,
it didn’t mind lies, but
it was afraid of Truth (實話)
on weekends
I was allowed to use it
but even then
with caution.
I did not understand why
couldn’t I speak my mind?

anyways it turns out,
Mami had been right
Danger slashed Love in its deep slumber
colourful while she still is,
a little bit faded, a little worn out.
only Power remains,
but not for much longer, I doubt.


Ginny Ip is an economist by training and an artist at heart. She hails from the proud city of Hong Kong and fills her time reading, writing and thinking about her freedom. @unfree_is_me