Counting to One


A steady lack of success may eventually thicken into something not in the least
like failure.

The small feel-toll of “empty” hours,
each one waiting for the wait to commence,
and the constant, constantly renewed frustration
of all and any expectation — this, too, is a quality
akin to achievement’s svelte felted unsung underlay.
In the long run,
the sum
of so many indefinite zeroes adds up —
not with addition’s conventional mathematics
by any stretch of the imagination but
by a stretch of the imagination beyond the reach
of all or any of the twenty-six letters in the English alphabet.
Crows likewise
learn to make music of their garbled black noise,
readjusting the settings of a marathon rasp
to accommodate the work night does before dawn
to the tune of a billion years
and then to the tune of another billion years
as evertheless they go on summoning from the sky
the flash of that one instant meteor-rite’s song.

Repairing the World

Earth from the Moon

We need to be basically broken in ourselves
to be able to heal
nearly everything else on this Earth.
Strange ⸺ that the deepest flaws call forth our doctoring touch!
Strange ⸺ that affinity
amounts to no more than fragilest finity
born of experience sore-raw.
Damage of course universally is a matter of course
and where we meet it
we greet it with unsuspected talents for repair, to mend
or assuage all that has come unwhole.
In this, we can’t always fail
and at least by diverting our fractured attention outwards
a span,
we may manage to outgrow despite ourselves in-growth,
and by knitting back the tissue where the tissue is undone
do for a lifetime of “strangers”
what by nature we cannot do here for ourselves.


Albrecht Durer_Das große Rasenstück

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)

O Melbourne . . .

2019-09-13 Brick Building Chinatown RESIZED

Black plastic linings shiver in public rubbish bins.
Dust, dust
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,
waving surrender.
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


Unidentified Shrine Lantau Island_27 NOV 2017


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
ten-year-old arms?
Goodness gracious.
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
her lifesize
last character fade and erase
naturally by slow evaporation in the sun,
she dips
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

In Darra

Evette KWOK_Lam Tsuen_NOV 2019

There’s space, a place for every-
thing, a place for you,
in Darra.
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)


Luen On Tin Hau Temple 2018


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”
to rights.


Photograph: 香港小欖聯安天后廟 Luen On Tin How Temple, Siu Lam, Hong Kong