Salt pan to Tai Pan,
Backs bent to shuck barnacles,
Tease out a leather shine,
Carts pushed by folk weathered
through the political shutter-speed
Of refuge, enclave, port town.
People came, from the sea, over marshland,
then from planes. Built with granite,
neon, concrete. Bodies now
contort to walk a straight line,
where coolies once ran vertical, lithe.
Sampans, then junks, then ocean liners,
Buildings set afire at night, spilling
technicolour onto ancient waters,
but at dawn gentle, lapping, quiet.
Close your eyes, stick out your tongue,
taste the briney preserve passed down
by many suns. This is lion rock spirit.
Woman sits gargoyled, joining the
neighbourhood choral of lunchtime
gossip. Pause to tear grilled meat
over her styrofoam box, biting
into words and rice, equanimous,
amidst the bustle of moving office shapes,
the wet market melodies of fruit hawkers.
Her toddler charge, slumbers in a
pushchair, each breath an
earnest hot release from
rosy, balloon cheeks.
Up the hill a sign mandates
a ‘sitting out area’ where pigeons
and the elderly duly comply. They
flock, both in colours of
muted blues and purples and greys,
bring a stillness to the city,
Like balm to soothe the lion’s belly.
From the 59th floor, pen following
figure eights of the black kites outside,
They soar, regal, take long sweeping
surveys of the world. All is quiet for us.
Far below, pile driving and construction
debris puff from building sites,
trams amble, their strained
calls losing voice as higher and higher
we ascend – human sacrifices moved
through the circulatory system
of the building’s lifts. The birds and I
are joined in captivity by men in cages.
They trawl the epidermis
of the beast, cleaning windows inside an eerie
bygone peace, as the wind jostles,
and pulleys quiver, they sit, nonplussed,
travelling the outlines of the skyline
that gilds sleeping rocks come nighttime.
Thousands of bodies confined to a metal tube,
carving personal space in a digital realm,
despite standing shoulder to shoulder,
a few spill out at every station, the
weary calm briefly unsettled
Each waiting for the beep of the
Doors to signify –
a hot meal, perhaps
Or just the television screen.
To shower, then bed when
night bleeds into the early hours.
And then, to wake, to do it all again,
and again, again, rub from eyes,
the salty sediment spun from sleep,
rise together to raise the beast.
This too, is lion rock spirit.