an excerpt from The Mental Life of Cities
No one sees the mental life of cities.
No one denies it is there.
It is darkness on the streets.
It is impulsive as pigeons.
I am a camera
hunting for metaphors.
There are eyes from opposite buildings
peering at other windows.
There are eyes flickering with uniformity,
looking at different TV screens.
This poem must be logical like numbers above lift doors.
It must be urgent like rush-hour morning trains.
My pen traces impulses of buildings.
I am darkness on the streets.
Evenings flicker, a million times
on a million television screens
with Jackie Chan.
I am learning to walk
through unwashed streets
with memories of flu in the neighbourhood.
Our lives are different under a strange democracy
of rats, for street protests are possible
when politicians cough over the latest crisis.
Is this my city?
Is an economy of rats possible
or do we need casinos?
Those metal domes
phallic in the skyline, those shiny aspiring skyscrapers
in Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau.
These are cities I cherish:
the new blueprints with old drafts of buildings,
that spurt of concrete of twelve storeys, a spit of land
for trees, shrubs and barbecue pits.
We have imagined ourselves:
we live like rats, our appetites bite and bite.
This island of a city is pure invention,
with official languages like flowers
fraying at the edges:
there are no words
for disobedience, decay, disenchantment.
This island of a city is pure invention;
we live in flats, neat and compliant
a book-length study of poetry
is titled Responsibility and Commitment.
They don’t teach Leaves of Grass, 野草, Howl:
Where are the books that read our nights and days?
by Eddie Tay
from The Mental Life of Cities (2010)