Poems. Hong Kong — ‘Kai Tak in Winter’
Inspired by the desolation of Kai Tak in the dry season of the year – with shamanistic elements inspired partly by Ted Hughes’s The Long Tunnel Ceiling (about the underside of a road bridge).
Kai Tak in Winter
A dry plain encircled by buildings
At the foot of the mountain,
Dust lies on the concrete,
On the bleached grass and discarded rubbish.
Nothing stirs, the sky a silent grey:
No living thing to be seen.
Born years ago in foment of waters
Stirred up from the placid sea,
Formed by rubble tumbled from barges,
Steadied by sand, buttressed by breakwater and stanchion
Against storm and wayward shipping;
A concrete apron flung over all.
Great phoenixes descended and ascended,
Scorching the concrete with their tails of fire:
Their beaks, opening, spewed bodies innumerable,
And closing, consumed as many –
The scent of their kerosene breath still discernable,
And the stink of their droppings in the nullah.
Along arcs of power, along far-flung pathways,
This place drew worshippers from the wide world:
All came, submitting to the narrow approaches,
Skimming perilously between rooftops,
And at last landing safely, their passengers whisked by buses,
Busses criss-crossing the apron to safety.
But ten years ago all ceased:
All gone to a rival beyond sea and mountain.
For ten years nothing happened,
The concrete brooding through the seasons’ cycle:
Summer turns the surface into molten iron
To be quenched by torrential rain
Then tempered by golden November,
And brought again to the stillness of winter,
Dead time of the year.
The grey sky presages dully
The unending cycle,
The passage of seasons without hope.
Yet overhead, stray vapour trails
And a distant hum,
Call forth oil-heavy exhalation
And stir memories within the depths.
Kai Tak in Winter
Copyright © Matthew Harrison, 2009
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