Kindergarten – Tim Tim Cheng


Granny did my homework—I cried
copying the alphabets
in my exercise book: capital letters
must touch the top and bottom red lines
while small letters must stay
between the blue lines.

The only English granny knew was
how do you do-do. i luffu yiu
but she wanted to save me from the pain.
She flipped over my exercise book
to follow the exemplary, new shapes
of a language more socially valued
than her, under the laced, intricate table
of the Chinese multiplication song.

Her hand-writing was rounder,
steadier than mine.
My teacher seemed to know
but she was angrier at the fact that
we copied with coloured pencils:
every letter was a blunt rainbow,
just because there’s no pencil
nor sharpener in our household.


Every new school year started with a new
English name: the class monitor took
Mary, name of the main girl in our book.

My teacher said Tim Tim, you could take
Cindy from Cinderella. She’s a princess.

I liked it although it didn’t occur to me
that the said princess was 灰姑娘, Miss Grey,
for who I knew the Chinese name.

I went home and told my granny about this.
She asked, what would my English name be?
Your cheeks are red. You must be an Apple!

Granny liked this. Years on, she still repeats:
Hello, how do you do-do? My name is Apple!


Tim Tim Cheng is a poet and a teacher from Hong Kong. Her poems are published or forthcoming in POETRY, Rialto, ANMLY, Cicada, among others. She is working on chapbooks which explore Hong Kong’s various vistas, as well as desire and rituals through the lens of tattooing.

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