Author photo by artist, Walter Bakowski

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Macau, city of exiles

Wen stares into the bathroom mirror,

touches lightly his graying hair,                                                                                                          

the black eye patch that covers the hollow

made by a Japanese sniper’s bullet

in the Manchurian winter of 1939.

Blood-stained tufts of grass.                                                                                                               

Strong hands lifting him from the mud,

being strapped to the back of a horse,

how swiftly the ground moved beneath them.


The inside of a tent.

A face, a doctor in a bloody gown,

who apologized for the field hospital’s

lack of morphine.  

The doctor looked down at the dirt floor,

then at Wen,

“As well as your right eye,

you lost a finger to frostbite.”


After the war

Wen worked his way south.

Cut hair near the railway station in Tianjin,

repaired bicycles in Wuhan,

sold medicinal herbs in Guangzhou,

paid to have himself smuggled into Macau

on a fishing boat.


Wen sometimes plays cards with his widow neighbour,

Mrs Cheng.                                                                                                     


They talk about

the best place in Macau to sample eel,

their favourite Fado singers,

how strong and sweet they like their coffee.


They talk

of the past -

working in the fields alongside a parent or ox,

the first time either of them saw an aeroplane,

the proverbs a grandfather repeated.


Mrs Cheng and Wen

talk about

the Shanghai actress, Lotus Chang,

who owed five hundred masks,

her sailor lover who threw himself into the mouth

of a Javanese volcano.


The afternoon brings a cooling breeze.

Mrs Cheng offers Wen a second piece of Madeira cake.

He pats his stomach in protest, then accepts.


Both are quiet for a while,

each thinking of which card to play next.

(from Beneath Our Armour)


  1. A sterling piece Peter. It really took me somwhere satisfying. sometimes i feel like your writing stares un-erringly into me, and not me into it. funny that... words, the yoyo's and agent provocateurs of our lives!

  2. Dear dj, Glad you liked this Macau poem. My family and I loved Macau, walking and randomly getting lost. Macau and China poems will be in forthcoming book, BENEATH OUR ARMOUR.
    Every good wish,