Sun shines face down in dirt.
Rain sleeps: only
rare dreams of cloud
turn a wind’s dry whine
into water. Parched air
conditions impatience. Heat waves break
against the endless bitumen mirage.
Proud Aussies — with their black
calm bands of coal —
now turn their backs
on that truest True Blue,
on their one and only Great Piece of Turf.
Image: Albrecht Dürer, Das große Rasenstück (1503)
Black plastic linings shiver in public rubbish bins.
is swept off its feet by traffic.
Out of nowhere one semi-trailer steals world peace for a second.
The phone booth confesses:
I say what I’m told to say
for the few coins they force down my throat.
In Clayton, an old Vietnamese man,
nose running in the wind,
hobbles on a crutch tattooed in purple ink
with a mobile phone number.
By the platform, crows play at their own kind of fare evasion.
A taxi smuggles Punjabi pop music
down a dead, echoey side-street.
Brickwork mesmerizes sunlight.
Clouds snail across the sky leaving no paths of silver.
Shrubs hold up green gloss leaves, mimicking glass,
A dirty flag flutters itself ragged on an empty house.
A pizza box claps its jaws shut in the gutter.
Sparrows rain down from a tree
before — magically — raining back into it.
Illegible rainbow graffiti
dissolves miles of grateful wall
the length of the unswerving railway.
Photograph: Brick warehouse, Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
FOR A PIG-TAILED CALLIGRAPHER IN A PARK IN CHINA
How does she go
putting herself into words written in water
on a slab-sheet of smooth park-paving
with a monster
brush thick as her unbangled
To bring out a better
best in herself,
she is wearing Sunday’s finest gear —
ribbons and glitter even in her hair —
and, while she watches
last character fade and erase
naturally by slow evaporation in the sun,
the thirsty furring of her brush
back in a spotless, lifeblood-red bucket neat as a hospital corner.
from her each and every tremor,
down to the fine print of her fingers —
and completely without outlines —
she is braced for the tug of writing’s next irresistible surge
and for signing herself
by calligraphy’s deftest ligature
onto our unread Earth.
Photograph: 香港大嶼山 Unidentified Shrine, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
There’s space, a place for every-
thing, a place for you,
With more sky in the street
and a quiet that doesn’t take to heart
the ka-chunk-a-chunk of trains,
you can spend time unwisely
on conversation, with a cup
of chai and a cool breeze
sweeping gardens sound asleep
on birdsong bedrock.
Forget what you meant
to do in Darra: you can put your feet up
on the kitchen table,
take Satoshi Kitamura’s UFO Diary
down from its hook on the wall,
and get agreeably lost
in life’s fine details, nothing to clutter
whatever you wish to make
of them. In Darra,
things remind you
with quirks and gentle colour
that seriousness and solemnity
are never exactly the same thing — ever,
as the sun, Great Photon Beachball,
laughs long yellow light-years
“endlessly” down the hall.
Photograph: Evette Kwok, Lam Tsuen (2019)
What the shoulder in its hearing borrows from the ears:
that distinct listening curve
as it makes its descent ever so gently down
to the armed socket. Against
the eyes of the edifice of the face —
self-conscious into the light — these shoulders attend
attuned in concentration to a rich global symphony
just outside the range of human hearing.
We are seconded to the task
by the boulder beauty of their shape;
we too wish
to hear what our ears openly deny us
beyond the broad beach of all auditory nerve:
something greater than the sense-attentive greatness of our own bodies, even:
a universe setting itself to itself through all its “parts”
Photograph: 香港小欖聯安天后廟 Luen On Tin Hou Temple, Siu Lam, Hong Kong
• Simon to Simon
FOR SIMON CHEANG
In the first tangle of self-consciousness
I work doubly hard to make sure
that I’m not simply talking out loud to myself.
Then, less maddened by coincidence,
I sense viscerally the clash of two instincts:
the territorial versus car parks of selflessness.
As I call you again by our personal name,
I try tacticfully to undo
a subtle defensiveness in my make-up.
Persona temporarily wrong-footed,
I hear in a “background” that will never speak its mind
the buzz of our intimate no one.
Don’t be too sure you know where this is going:
is what we draw across windows to stop sight going out
like a flame.
What began as a statement called itself
into question before I’d even got half way out
into the vocal landscape. (But what is voice,
if not an elaborate private noise
with a strong sense of vocation?) Next time, don’t wait
for a gap in the traffic to tell you what to think:
what begins as a statement
often winds up confessing
apart-ment in a passionate query. I too thought
I was practical — an ambidextrous bear-hugger
of nuts and bolts reality,
but it turns out I’m only so in the sense
of a prank: a stupid practical joke.
It’s true: I’m tempted by this
to move out of my head at times —
take a holiday in some lost last resort where inner
and outer realms mesh in a manner of speaking
just to see what uncommon sense is actually capable of.
What began as a statement,
sure of its destination, turned suddenly Jesuspicious:
it responds if it likes to the Don’t-You-Know-Why?
but more often than not it just shrugs as it shoulders
that distinct yet instinctive load
only we half know how.
Photograph: 香港蠔涌谷 Ho Chung Valley, Hong Kong