By | 1 May 2014

Do they still pollard the trees in Tokyo?
Here in obfuscating avenues too much is left to grow.
My daughter visits: she cleans my teeth,
wraps me in mohair battening
my ankles to the wheelchair.
Her breath is warm in my ear
heaving as she pushes up the hill.
My head thrown back to the foliage-matted sky.
Impatient of their green hemmed frame,
I see the clouds hurry by.

Lunchtime walkers smile at her,
they know they mustn’t identify with my
aged skin and unleavened inscrutability.
The Chinese tourists are of a different category
Ni hao: yes they may have my photograph.
I pose to ensure I rest, some creased old man,
on slit-eyed mantels unhewn for posterity.

My daughter loiters with her eyes,
that beckon me to speak of nights hunkered
on canvas stretchers in the overhang of alang alang,
or of the trinket boxes I carved from coconut shell.
In Rabaul we were sick on grub cooked in ten-gallon drums,
in huts thick with dysentery, dengue and beer.
I can no longer hand out memories.
The crow demands and never says thank-you
but we are not in Tokyo—here there are only peewees
whose plinking interests me—so neatly sung in unison.

My son visits on Sundays and joins the dinner table.
In this place his wits are clear,
top man—he may give a speech.
I watch him amongst the dribbling and crumpled residents—
amongst dirty wheelchairs and orthopaedic cutlery.
His thoughts scattered in realms like wheat for chooks,
clods, shaken from sheaves of downy thistle.
Is it black there too? I want to ask.
I am glad the birds will start at five thirty—
and enthusiastically.

The pollarded trees in Paris are persuasive,
and more brutal than Tokyo, their limbs contorted
like prize fighters, sallying in rows.
They murmur in the wind and I have joined the whispering
it is lonely if you go but no different if you stay.

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