HONG KONG (H) OURS
An afternoon Travelogue
I: (Causeway Bay, Noon)
The air here is closed,
Congealed and cut
…...Aromas of piss, imperfection
And something sweeter; cured fish.
A junk on Causeway Bay, left to bobb,
Drawn to its spot by no anchor,
Sniffing sea like a stray cat,
As it skitters and spumes private drift.
I am snap-shotting cities in words
As they have far more scope than a footstep.
For tired feet, the mind travels,
Bestowing through ink, journey’s wish.
II: (On a Contrast)
From this wretched tangle of boats, the city blooms,
Steel bred flowers. A host of alien observation
And judgement as evidenced by their size.
One world replacing the last under acrylic cloud,
Dominating, while, beyond, ancient mountains
In mild repose cast their eye.
Gloss and construction, then rust.
Orange peel in the water. Along with spent tyres
Making harbours and pools. Substance rhymes.
Studio 54 flower head, circa 1976,
Now retired. Masked by her parent leaves
And stray husband, all she has now is the wig.
She bows, glamour stooped, as her sister yields
To the climate. Her party, torn, she stays vibrant,
Red dreads dipped in dried drink.
IV: (Custom and Care)
Carry your child like a bag, or as a shield
Slanted on you; a flesh tattoo, sundered,
Or low hung guitar, sleep’s song spat.
No sense of occasion arrives.
The Taiwanese are all middle.
In the soup thick heat, even babies
Have throats grown old. Time feels fat.
V: (Sea and Sky)
Clouds are wantons.
Sea; tea. Thick jasmine scent from fish broiling.
The sky admits the procession
Of a Tai Chi state of air change.
Mountains cup the vast bowl of the bay
As a customer with soup proffered,
But the waves of air come to steal it
As gleam-fish snoop water’s way.
They scour the stone, quietly
As if negotiating a mortgage.
A place to claim. Its this network
That will outlast man’s exchange.
VI: (The Lost Crown)
The city competes with the landscape framed
To remind it
Of the former way;
Weather haloed by a crown of clouds
At the peak.
Commercialism now spreads
Across once sacred streets like a sickness,
While Gods strain to cure cancer
And the other ruins that keep mankind
VII: (Issues from the Night Before)
From the primary forces that framed the once sacred city,
The modern codes have not honoured
Most of the appeal of the bay.
Inflexibility reigns, free of all explanation.
Something simply is. You won’t know it.
And so cannot forestall dictum’s sway.
Even the Taxis are the West’s opposite
With your fare dictated by the passing whim
Of the driver. Marooned with our bags
After midnight, my colleague and I
Chase the dawn. An Italian steps into help,
Like Charlie Chaplin approaching Ben Turpin
(Such was my rage) yielding triumph
After an uncertain role as fate’s pawn.
If Christ or Allah is here, or, for that matter,
Buddha, I certainly prayed they would save us
From the conquering heat and fixed rules.
The day is shrouded by mist
In the Shangri-La pressure cooker.
Baking hope that seeks freedom
And a return to the time legends schooled.
VIII: (As if Bidden)
On cue, the legend returns. T’ai Chi in a park space. An older man as a poem
Writing his prayer across air. Attendance to the force that once forged this city
And the nation itself rivers through him, as he swims through day with faith’s care.
One leg supports as the rest of him rises. He reads his Gods through his fingers
And the silent verse that thought breeds. Amidst the climate pressures and change
He performs for all weather and for all of that raging for us, which he binds and restores
To find peace. The body conforms. The body controlled.Age and wisdom, placed at once
In a painting of beauty and grace he can teach. I watch him. I stop. Trying to ape
His body writing with writing. The flow of these words a pale shadow to what makes
His stance in the light so complete.
IX: (A Wrong Turn)
Gloucester Road is the pit. Stench like an arm takes full nelson.
The street like a grimmoir that would stain a book horror shaped.
It is under this scape. As you try to dislodge yourself from the bowel,
The Kowloon streets are intestines. And along the route, bad investment;
The death of cheese and meat. Pleasure scowls. It is a bewildering place,
Alternating with beauty. The streets congeal. Each complicit
In a souring frequency. I long for air, my throat full, the heat its own vacuum.
Running free like the guilty, determined to find clemency.
X (Exhausted, with Dogs)
You can see more from one spot
Than on a vast sojourn through this city.
A congruence of dogs play mouth football,
Each spitting the object back as a team.
Their legs cojoin, as they forge a society despite owners,
More taken with sport and ball orbit
Than they are with their arses, or by any of the other plots
Sex can scheme. The dogs are proper acrobats here,
Their faces fixed on potential. Soundlessly, they are experts,
Never needing to bark. Balls are dreams.
The owner kicks the ball up, and the dog catches it
In an instant. To the sitters delight, its a circus,
An animal’s take on pleasure and life’s simpler joys
As they stage communion, entrancing us while they feed.
Then a clamorous pup in wheeled past
In a curtained baby carriage,
An orb of hound, or mutation,
Made perhaps when the owner craved
The canine moment too much.
Pride or protection displayed.
Rabies or reverence, brandished.
The dog has its day, year and season,
Rebirthed once more by love’s touch.
XI: (Rest from Walking)
Stay in one place long enough and the entire city comes to you.
Dogs, social values, menus and myths. Affluence, seen from boats.
Vagrancy, too. There are islands of shit in the water.
Gods lost and giant, hidden in mist. River ghosts.
XII: (The Air Waits)
You could catch this air, that’s for sure
And see it move in the bottle. In Hong Kong, humidity
Is a genre that infiltrates each aspect.
It reveals the heat of a sun that likes to pass itself
Off as something. Disguised, its glare garners,
Parades and then melts the suspect.
XIII: (Harbour Sounds)
The rattle of junk boats is complaint as they arc and dance
Through the harbour, celebrating cramped clamour,
The glamour they chase denies grace.
For these are ramshackle rooms, precariously placed
On the water. U-turns, upended,
They are untidy throats words can’t trace.
XIV: (Dogs 2)
They know how to treat their dogs here,
Walking back, I see how the dogs walk their owners.
A Pup is borne like a baby, a trophy of love, miniature.
A breast pocket, fur faced, honouring care’s outer essence
That is only ever partly glimpsed through expressions,
And as far as the dog is concerned. withheld slurs.
XV : (Back at the Hotel)
The newly showered guests emerge pink
And soothed and only partly evolved in the lobby,
Male hair slicked, fat trust T-shirts matching
Their best pair of trousers and wife.
A beautiful Taiwanese girl croons ‘These Foolish Things’
To a casio keyboard tempo; and all at once its a whirlwind
Of shaky pretence and half life.
The girl is beautiful, though, but who here does she sing to?
Only Fleetwood Mac on an i-pad can seek to contain
True love’s plight. Suddenly a middle aged Taiwanese
Couple stand and begin to dance very badly.
They move as automatons, free from music,
With a total misunderstanding of beat.
As if released from a box, they seem to enact
Known manoeuvres; it is as ridiculous
As its charming, their profound lack of rhythm
Its own inner bible, informing held hearts
And lost feet. As I watch exhausted, they seem
To contain the whole nation. Through their grace
Without glamour they are ancient and new
All at once.
They seem amused at themselves as they malfunction
Their way round the dance floor. A private spectacle
Offered as the last of the day subdues sun.
Soon I will be without time, having crossed all these time zones.
A thirteen hour flight back to Spring time in which I will lose
Another hour at least. After an eighteen hour day
Without sleep and a further flight behind me,
I have been emptied, but will be marked by their dance
And this heat. The couple have found happiness,
Their lack of conformity became noble.
They will represent Hong Kong rising despite past defeats.
The rising sun slides all the long way back into darkness,
As Cities seen in a day’s space seek to become poetry.
Precis’ of place, a lack of permanence soon translated
Into lines like this, which while hasty
Seek to enhance, inform, and release.
XVI: (Before I Go)
I swim in the roof level pool.
Immediately, it starts raining.
Sky hung low, earth ascendant,
At the point they converge, man’s remade.
Across is cloud, like white ink,
An immaculate stain on horizon,
And one of the only points at which writing
Is not the movement of ink, but of page.
David Erdos March 29th 2019