Google+ Followers

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Notebook Poems

Teaching now
Rows of blank faces
I can’t read
Staring at me
Who they can’t read.

A Shakespeare sonnet,
A Bob Dylan song,
A Van Morrison complaint –
A quote about communication
From Seneca. Am I
Playing with irony

Chalk dust in my throat
Coaldust in my eyes
Hot chillies in my mouth
The lanes full of
Stick brooms and steaming vats
And fish who jump
From their troughs …
Every step a surprise,
Each sense assaulted.

I teach them to say G’Day
Something Australian
To combat the USA influence.
Eling has taught himself English
By watching American movies.
Denver named himself after
John, surprised it’s a town.
Here we are in China
Bamboo Curtain down
But still ghostly felt.

Girls give themselves
English names of
Abstract ambition –
Harmony, Enjoy,
Even my favourite –


Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your plastic bucket …

Next door,
Three floors up
And kind-hearted,
My American mates
Have devised a pulley system:
They feed a tough string line
Out their balcony window
And lower a bucket.
Last night it was
Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell;
The night before
Two candles and lighters,
A torch because
The power had gone out;
The night before the night before
A block of Mainland cheese,
Gold in these parts.
No need for electrickery:
Just drop down
And haul up.

Necessity gives birth again.


Flying Pigeon,
Forever Gold …

Racehorses? No –
Bicycles in China,
Made of low quality
Chinese steel so
Pretty soon they rust
But scoot through
The frenetic traffic
Well enough.
There’s one called
Alice, another Sally.

By the roadside
Bike mechanics
Work among
Small ballbearings,
Broken spokes,
Bent forks and
Punctured tubes.
It reminds me
Of my youth
As they check the valve
In a basin of water
And rasp the tube’s
Surface to patch it.
We had a clamp and
Some kind of burning system
On our back verandah.
Here they work
On the ragged stone pavement,
Among spilt noodles
And cigarette butts.
One old spark plug
From a motor scooter
Lies on the pavement,
And a young boy,
Opportunist at five,
Picks it up and scurries away.
Maybe Dad will be pleased.

Here on the corner
Where we walk
A three-wheeler
With metal flat-bed on the back
Is turned upside down.
They operate on its axle,
Sticking things together again.
It’s Humpty Dumpty
Engineering, and he’s ready to go
In ten minutes or so –
But just now
He sells melons to
If it’s daylight
It’s business hours
For the poor
Melon sellers
Of Linfen.


1 comment:

kc said...

love your china poems. when i got back form ireland I wrote one on belfast. or my brother. or even me, depending on how you read it. and here's a short one form the wa art gallery today:

glass jar gleaming
on museum floor
no snake dreaming

it's based on a christopher pease painting (indigenous painter Told you it was short. The belfast one's better.