James Stuart’s most recent works include: online poem-world The Homeless Gods (www.thehomelessgods.net); Conversions, an exhibition of poetry in translation (Chengdu, Suzhou and Beijing); and, The Material Poem, an e-anthology of text-based art and inter-media writing (www.nongeneric.net). He was a 2008 Asialink Literature Resident in Chengdu, China, supported by the Australia Council and Arts NSW.
It’s time to savour your European life. At the airport
she combs her hair back into the Third World War:
Style is effortless the same way it’s easy
to have something unless everyone wants it too.
What emerges from urban pixellation is the greyest
of mysteries, furtive glance down an original side street.
You take each such image & let it vibrate
beneath the weight of two dialects, a single script.
I would join the chorus, though here
we pass only as much as one remains.
Soon the administrator’s garden, meandering,
revelation in the updraught of a smog-free sky.
May 2009 – Chengdu, Sichuan, China
A private celebration: mother
weeps; string of cameras carries
this likeness to row upon row of the remote.
What can you feel when the day turns to stone?
On a white beach south-west of Santiago
they feel it too: goose bumps in the cool sea breeze;
frosted glasses of Piña Colada; space afloat,
emptied. Handfuls of silence that pock-mark the air.
Then the unfolding of tides, lightly creased
linen of a surface which entombs
such reactions: nameless black water
layer upon layer of the stuff.
Skimming back across oceans to where a coordinated
wail rings out, appeasing humiliation
with pronouns & possessives
igniting public squares & campuses,
propane fists, their uranium hearts:
emotions when definite become
sharp, cut through whole crowds. This atonement
for the reckless anarchy of earth.
Against a sunset human shadows are
as paper dolls, barbs of phosphorescent light.
Finally, the arrival of the dead in wave
upon wave of photographs, spliced
an open wound, its destructive pomp.
Dim sum, the city’s great tradition: the captain of the steam cart
makes a beeline for our table across the vulgar carpet
then zig-zags port-side at the last minute.
We conceal disappointment behind the rain checks:
what can’t you find in a supermarket these days!?
In Aisle 4: plantation palm oil & the latest flavonoids.
Aisle 6: a numinous stream of crockery & chopsticks.
Ours was a world less innocent than such winding threads
of fluoro strip-lights & the gradual advent of disposable nappies.
For old times sake, let’s label our prejudices for the sample jars.
We’ll examine them tomorrow, over an ice-cold mango drink
in the laced shade of these hat brims,
though such a colonial taxonomy is sure to kill the mood.
Today remains your day. From his shrine, the North God
delegates aesthetic decisions as to the appearance of his idols –
that old fraudster! When the whistle blows, migrant workers
swim beneath the bridge and back to their dormitories,
a procession of orange hard-hats and flip-flops.
If you have ever seen such a sight
you are either immortal or a liar – for only now,
in the fragrant patio of dusk, do a pride of rosewood lions
pad out from the razed mangroves & prowl the foreshore
pawing at a rattan ball marked Made in Burma.