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Image by Drew Beamer


Our system is stronger than yours

We nourish, so you can cherish, relish

but instead, you demolish, extinguish 

We’re everywhere, we’re legion

Life, prana, chi, oxygen

Urgently flowing, nutrients sowing 

At first, no limitation, just cohabitation 

Later, confrontation and elimination

You use, abuse, make excuse

Ecosystems destroyed, leaving but a void

Drain and strain, inflicting pain 

until pain becomes our truth, our recourse

But our system is stronger than yours.


Industries, policies, economies 

Exploit, excite, showing no respite

You prosper and profit while I am unprotected

Yearn and earn while I burn

Then one day, when you can breathe no more

Markets stumble, banks tumble, 

Countries crumble, you’re briefly humbled 

Epidemic, pandemic, it’s become systemic

You complain, blame and name names

And humanity hangs its head in shame

Alas, there is no change.

Yet, you cannot deplete me, you cannot delete me

Our system is stronger than yours, you see.


We survive, revive and thrive

We were here before you arrived

And will be here after you die

Bearing fruit, truths, our roots

Are your barometer, your keeper

Feeding, leading, though we’re bleeding

We still rise amongst your lies

Reaching for the skies

Verdant, abundant, radiant

We’re earth! Someday you’ll see our worth.

Until then, we’ll endure

Because our system is stronger than yours.

Siu Sik (小食)

I stand outside 7-11 eating cheung fun with flimsy bamboo skewers, savouring each bite as the peanut, hoisin and soy sauces mix in my mouth in a burst of streetside flavour. And I watch as they inevitably swirl around in my bowl, becoming inseparable, an indescribable colour yet to be Pantoned, an amalgamation of memories of a childhood in Hong Kong.


Mom used to call it chee chow fun, Indian accent and all. I’m not sure she would approve of me buying it at a 7-11, though, given that she only ever ate them at dai pai dongs. Her most recent favourite spot had been on Tak Shing Road, near Jordan, but she had been known to frequent one in Sham Shui Po – I never learned exactly where. Unfortunately, there never seemed to be enough time to ask.


She mostly liked cheung fun and wui fan shu, while my siblings and I were drawn to other snacks as well, from yu dan to chow mein, siu mai and gai daan zai – always bought at vendors on the busy streets of Tsim Sha Tsui before gentrification forced the stalls to move away initially and eventually shut down. Mom didn’t eat cheung fun regularly, but if she was out with one of us at a doctor’s clinic or purchasing a one-size-up school uniform on Prince Edward Road, it wasn’t unusual for her to stop on the way home for a quick bite. This was the first authentic Hong Kong Chinese food she fell in love with after immigrating from India in the mid-1970s, and she ate it like the locals: standing on the streetside outside a stall off a melamine plate with a floral pattern that had long since faded.


When my father’s business started thriving, he bought a Mercedes and hired a driver to take us around, but that didn’t stop Mom from seeking her guilty pleasure. She would get herself and the driver a large order each between errands as they sat in the car eating the steaming hot rice noodles while double-parked in the narrow side streets of Yau Ma Tei.


Ten years since she passed, I still cannot eat cheung fun without thinking of her and all she represents. Scooping up the last sauce-laden bite, I contemplate getting seconds, then remind myself that my metabolism is almost fifty, not fifteen. Reluctantly, I head home through the Fa Yuen Street market and see a dai pai dong I hadn’t noticed before – the pungency overpowering and unidentifiable – the outlet, like the others, sold a wide range of siu sik. I make a mental note to try this place next time as I stand there, momentarily forgetting if I’m memorising or memorialising. Steam rises through the pots filling the air around me, conjuring up the magic of a childhood loved, a mother adored, a home adopted.

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