City Pastoral

Night is over. CNN is on.
Red and yellow taxis, tops lit
Like go-go girls, prowl the macadam.
Above, in the brightening heaven,
Engines crank. No angels are dusting.
Only the island smog shifts
With sleepers on doorsills.

Last night in Causeway some were fucked
For power, peace, money, love.
Mongkok grandmas sold shoes and wallets.
Uncles were swindled. Some fathers’ luck
Came in, ran out. Minibuses sped
With panting breaths, brown stinking coughs,
Condemned, necessary and crammed.

Across the hotel’s scythe-shaped window
Serial towers of glowing slate rise
Empty of people. White drawn glass crowd
With drying shirts, frayed towels, gray
And riotous underwear; kettles, pots,
The what-may-have-you despised
That citizens cannot live without.

The happy weatherman is getting back
To us on his little prison screen,
Just as the April sun has risen ever
Higher, ruthless, above the gun-black
Windows. Just, as everywhere, a child
Is waking, fresh, clear-eyed, clean,
Ready for joy in the smoky city fields.

by Shirley Geok-lin Lim
from Walking Backwards (2010)


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