Poetry / December 2017 (Issue 38)

Three Poems

by David McKirdy


Star struck tourists
cliché their way across the harbour
in kitsch historic style
having scanned the brochures
and watched Nancy Kwan as Suzie Wong
sashay across the gangway.

But 50 years ago
Nancy Kwan as Nancy Kwan
travelled to and fro
there and back with the rest of us.
Downstairs for the unwashed masses
delivery bicycles with baskets of live chickens
British schoolboys
with long hair and a twenty-a-day habit
upstairs in first for the rest.

A burnished brass plaque declares:
"Hull built and machinery installed by
The Hong Kong and Whampao Dock Company."
Northern Star, Night Star, Day Star
each one contains his essence
Shining Star, Twinkling Star
paid our school fees
Morning Star, Silver Star
put food on the table.

A Hong Kong icon
founded by Parsee merchants
designed by British shipwrights
built and crewed by Chinese working men.
The short trip between Island and Mainland
once a lifeline
now the tee-shirt experience
of a package tour
in our world city.

So government pragmatists moved the pier
surprised by a riot of protest—
the ghostly reminder
of bloodlines drawn in sand
the collective memory of a city divided
by race, ideology and fortune.

For years
governments have failed to listen.

It's our city
our heritage
our history.

Listen now.



Jesus wants me for a sunbeam
or so I'm told
by guitar slingers on Sunday in the city
fanatical, evangelical, Filippinacal
with Fender Stratocasters and Marshall stacks.
Each group
more provocative than the next
louder than the Rolling Stones
but no sympathy for The Devil.
Jezebels with decibels
courting cash, canvassing for Christ.

In the cosseted comfort of the Mandarin Hotel
disgruntled guests get a rude awakening—

The call to prayer.



You missed your chance at life
because I jealously nurtured mine.
Because of commitment;
Absolute when it came to personal goals
absolutely lacking when it came to relationships
and letting go of fear and the baggage of insecurity.

I never gave myself permission to love or be loved.
The possibility of you frightened me in early years.
You were absent as a concept as I pursued fame and fortune
and the motocycle world championship.
You merited not a thought as I traversed the world
entranced by the glamour of Formula One.

I matured reluctantly into a middle-aged teenager
and sought acclaim as a rock musician.
Your voice was seldom heard
just an occasional appearance in thoughts and dreams
and the nagging doubt
that time was passing by.

But now, as I more often put my thoughts on paper
you appear daily and appeal to me.
So many of my friends are fathers, mothers, grandfathers!
I'm twice a Godfather, but never the real thing.
Did I miss a chance, or did they?
Or have we missed it yet?

Editors' Note:
These three poems first appeared
in Eight Hong Kong Poets (Chameleon Press, 2015).

Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.