Friday, March 12, 2010

376. Star Ferry

The path was narrow
and the road was long
but it finally brought me
to Hong Kong

Hee-yah! Kwai-Lo.

Kwai-Lo. Foreign Devil.
Not just foreign, understand,
but devils into the bargain.
We smell like corpses
even after umpteen showers,
a sour rancid smell, they say,
of slowly rotting meat.

Sniff your armpits

The civilised people,
Chinese, self-described,
stink, I think, of decaying fish
but that's just accepted,
normal. It's all in the
perception. My conception
of boring daily banking life
was severely wrenched
when I was drenched
in a sudden shower.
An umbrella popped
and I whirled around to see
a Hong Kong lovely.

A Hong Kong lovely
wears a white silk blouse
and a tight dark skirt,
sheer stockings, very
expensive Italian shoes,
a little gold crucifix
(Hee-yah! All gods are good);
lovely has lips of vermilion,
she has green-blue mascara
and blue-black shiny shiny
carefully tumbling long black hair.

Does she look good?
She looks good. You,
on the other hand, stand
like an idiot, rooted to the spot.
"Ha, you, umblella," she smiles,
so you, bumbling and stumbling,
escort her to the Star Ferry
for which you pay all of 50 cents
in a gentlemanly manner,
aware of the inescapable fact
that you may be smelling like a corpse
while she, instead of day-old fish,
smells of Guerlain.

"You, what name?", she smiles,
and as you try to bloody well remember
your heart goes pitty-pitty-pat
and a torrent of pain rolls over you,
memories of Nanny and the nursery,
the brittle coldness of Mama,
the icy distance of Papa,
the brusqueness of the boys at school,
the cold sheets, the tearful nights.

Hee-yah! Kwai-Lo.

Soon it is Kowloon side
and as the brisk little Chinese sailors
do quick arrangements of ropes
the ferry smacks upon the pier;
"Your name ... you haven't told me your name!"
My name Mei Ling. I go now.
I give umblella you. Yes? You pay 5 Hong Kong.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

375. An Overture

A pall of smoke and drifting ash
hangs above the battered ruins of Baghdad;
for four long days it has hung above
mounds of corpses and the humming
sounds of blowflies. It has cast a shadow
on the wide meandering river, but by now
the impassive horsemen, their work done,
have casually moved along.

From an oven built of bricks, which takes up
corner space in a smouldering cellar shop,
emerges, from cavernous thick cool depths,
a child, wary and uncertain. It is a boy,
tousle-haired, perhaps about nine or ten.
He gazes upon the surrounding wreckage
and sees the charred bodies of his parents,
his two sisters. He climbs up to the street.

Tied to his robe by a thin rope is a pouch
containing scraps of stale uneaten bread,
an empty flask of water, four small silver coins.
The street is grey and blurred under falling ash
but the heat and the stench, as they come on
so suddenly, cause the child to cough and gag.
He mutters a quick prayer, Allah, not that his
mind, unformed, truly believes in any God.

Nothing moves. The collapsed huddled shapes,
heaped, blackened and bloated, line the alleyways,
and show themselves to be his neighbours,
the people he has known since he was born.
How … how could this have come to happen?
It doesn’t seem right that complete strangers,
people he has never even seen or heard of before
can ride in on the wind and do such things.

Go HERE for background