"The Other Side" Contest Winners / March 2015 (Issue 27)

Blended Learning

by Lachlan Brown

‘Parched riverbank car
Driving at the edge of sky
Are you sad?’
             —Hong Ying, "Profile"
‘You scour these Chinatowns of the mind’
             —Kim Cheng Boey, "Chinatowns"

(revenant opiate)
Double-edged grace,
your cousins auditing the world,
the dishes your mother never let you choose,
the smack addict in Cabramatta’s gleaming sunshine,
your cousins crossing Border Leicesters alongside the Lachlan,
unsettled wool prices like a seismograph gone spastic,
short selling all these rapturous futures,
gerrymandering electorates in the shape of sheepyards.

Skip ahead to reconditioned ethnicity,
phlegm’s supremacy, the streaked pavement
an icon for these next few decades, introducing
aspirational living where everybody gets a car.
Think of a number, double it, look under your seat,
subtract the number you originally thought of.
Policy’s ambitious ambit knows all answers,
begins to draft a contract for our expanding universe.

(non-sobre judgement)
You’re anxious that each new insight is just
self-surveillance missing/hitting its mark,
the sky like mirror in a nightclub bathroom
in Chaoyang district. Before the literary festival
you ask six different people to take your photo
as you hold yourself inside a discarded
picture frame and each rejection makes you
stronger, a telemarketer with implacable spirit

(wall of frozen dumplings)
This serpent-ribbon, sliding across
the landscape’s body, is actually
nothing like the refrigerated
corridors of the century’s
hidden desires, patching
logistic-hygiene sensors
into a non-existent grid
on a warming planet.

(Jinjiangli metatext)
Official brochure aspect
with front matter like a visa category
that contains every other category.
My un-heritage stacked five
stories high, backstreets
where a gentle man is keeping bees,
They hum like my grandfather’s voice
stirring the elms from some limitless past

(new lucky four eyes: for the director of music)
Reengaged by a noble refusal
cinching culture and identity:
the kite string on the new
year’s parade float which you
sense will somehow still electro-
cute you whether this weather
changes or not (the cat waving
its arm like a frenzied conductor).

two billion reasons for insignificance,
your suspicious history, your unpronounceable name,
eyes and the split condition like a racist delta
with tributaries drying up or a series of overlaid characters
now disappearing one by one due to explicable drought.
And when your grandmother reads aloud, traces her fingers
over the engravings at Rookwood cemetery, her words erect
a magnificent pavilion, endowing the future with promise.

Under the Great Wall I will rest in an abandoned
farmhouse, just two rooms collapsing slowly
into the clear cold, single bricks falling from the roofline.
It will be spring, but with some ponds still frozen.
My hands will forget themselves, three goats will
scamper past, and then my breath will surprise me,
like a hare bursting through coarse undergrowth
startling itself with the suddenness of exposure.
Lachlan Brown This is a Finalist of Cha's "The Other Side" Poetry Contest. Lachlan Brown on "Blended Learning": The poem stems from a dual heritage. My father's family is from Anglo-Celtic farming stock in the central west of NSW Australia. My mother's family is from China and immigrated to Australia via Papua New Guinea in the 1930s-1940s. I was able to visit China for the first time in 2014 and was struck by the ways in which I found myself both wanting to claim but also disavow the China(s) that I experienced during this visit. The different sections of the poem demonstrate some ways that I've tried to deal with notions of doubled identity, the obligations of history, and the inability to fully grasp one's own place within a series of complex landscapes. [Read Vinita Agrawal's commentary on "Blended Learning"] [Back to "The Other Side"]  
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