Daytrip To China


Thump thump!
The rubber stamp writes
its incomprehensible footprint
on the passport page.
A chicken dinner
wriggles in its restraining net
in the strong thin grasp
of an old Chinese woman
and further down the long line
a fish wobbles in a polythene bag.

Later, racing the narrow roads
in the crumpled 12 seater
cyclists scattering before us,
a haystack slithers down a distant hill
eventually revealing underneath
a bicycle latticed with bamboo poles
and a man doing a balancing trick.

At crossroads, roofs suspended on poles
crown the cooking jabbering crowds,
piles of bicycles scribbled in the dust
where news and gossip
leak through the province border
beyond which they must not pass.

In a park the ancient chime
of chisel on stone measures
an old man’s piece of time
with thousands of unhurried years.

A schoolroom’s unglazed windows
tile the sun on bleak pictureless walls
and devoid of book, paper or pen
rows of rough unvarnished desks
stand to attention in dusty beams;
behind each stiffly squat
saw-horse seats for bony students’ bums.
Blackboard, the sole focus,
in carefully scripted English says
“I love you.”
Outside, children beg
with impish yellow smiles

The ease of ancientness
brushes from my feet
on the tumbling fan of steps
beneath the crumbling façade
of St Paul’s Macau,
dissolves in the flying mist
as the hydrofoil
whips the wave-backs
in its frantic rush out of the past
back to the hurly-burly of Hong Kong.


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