Poetry / May 2009 (Issue 7)

A Long Way to China: Three Poems

by Ceci Mourkogiannis

A Long Way to China

We lost eight hours to the earth's curves
transported to the future somehow
I tried and failed to change my watch
at every borderline
tucked in our time-travel pod
aluminium and faux-leather chairs
without footrests
seat-belt signs oscillating
my forehead pressed against
the thick glass
skin to sky
as countries shifted neatly past
geometric farmlands in the west
ordered as diagrams
and much later herds of lights
like balls of burning sodium
flickered through the gauze of cloud
and met me on the ground

Beijing Lights

The Chinese are famous for their lights
- for fireworks, for lanterns, for neon -
so it never gets dark in Beijing.
There's ball room dancing
on streets lit by headlights,
1980s Volvos parked in a row.
The orange and white lights
cast shapes
onto Chinese feet fumbling with
foxtrots in Old Peking.
Electric-signs on building-tops
interrupt the high-night,
indistinguishable in Mandarin,
those strong crimson characters
suspended - a substitute for stars,
and children sold glow sticks
on Tiananmen Square.

London, it's a Long Way from China

I tried walking along Chelsea Embankment the same day I got back,
tried to squint, to make Battersea Bridge,
its night-time state,
triangles and strips of little yellow lights across the Thames,
seem new and wonderful again
by turning my head on its side,
tried to love it unconditionally,
but I'd seen bigger and better in China.
I stamped on wet London leaves, flimsy spines,
but there was no art to it at all;
I'd seen autumn from the Great Wall -
that ancient stone twist into insignificance,
the tops of it fade perspective-blue;
that line of Victorian street-lights raising artificial suns a few metres up
seemed unaware of all that's changed,
nothing like Shanghai's Pearl tower;
a queue of pleasure boats at the end of Flood Street,
back to back complicit in their dullness,
too many cliches I could use to shield it.

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