Last updated: February 28, 2021

Hong Hong, “Feb 28”

The February 28th Incident is a major historical event in Taiwan, where numerous were killed, went missing, or otherwise violently suppressed by the authoritarian government in light the civil uprising that first exploded in Taipei on February 28, 1947. A lot about the incident remains unknown, and now it’s mostly studied and further investigated in the context of transitional justice for the nation.

For more background, see:

For most Taiwanese, however, this particular day isn’t necessarily associated with collective grief or trauma. It’s a national holiday, so in people’s everyday conversations, more often than not, the date is associated more with a long weekend, when consumerism invariably rears its ugly head. At the same time, people have somewhat come to find the Incident annoying. Prominent political figures often take advantage of, sometimes weaponize, the incident and make speeches on this day. This is the theme of Hong Hong’s short poem, “Feb 28,” which I attempted a rough translation of below.

Hong Hong, “Feb 28”

From The Sanguine Island (2019)—

This month
is shorter than the rest
by two or three days.

This day
reaches its destination
earlier than in other months.

This day
many people
see an early dark night.
But this day ends

abruptly
by gunshots
by sobs
buried under ashes
with pitch atop.

Every year this day
someone would always apologize
for whom, they never know.

Every year
people celebrate this day
walking on the pitch road
to a movie,
to a restaurant recommended on PTT, 1
to get in line for new in clothes.

Statues are covered by burlap bags.
No one knows
if he repents or snickers.

Many years ago, this day
a 78 rpm record
once sang—
who remembers, even vaguely?—

Night as day, day as night
Living in the dark
How will we see the light 2


1

A telnet-based forum that’s similar to Reddit in Taiwan.

2

Lyrics to a popular Soutehrn Min song in the Japanese-rule era.

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