The Bookseller
By Tammy Ho Lai-Ming 

There is a small city like all cities
in which booksellers seldom make the news.
Then one day this all changes when five
go missing, one by one.

People care a little, not too much,
about the first four: after all, they vanished
elsewhere. So long as the fire
does not burn too near, it’s all right.

Then the fifth, who once said:
‘I am not worried. I have avoided
the mainland for years,’
fails to come home to his wife.

The citizens know for sure
that something is not right.
The disappearances breed fear,
anger, even rumours of whores.

Some remove books banned
across the border or close their doors.
Others, trepidatious yet defiant,
continue to sell, print, write.

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and an assistant professor of literature at Hong Kong Baptist University.