when we elevated a section of the great wall

we had a student from the middle kingdom stay with us for three weeks and she was perfectly happy here despite the multitudes of bullocks and a malfunctioning body scanner.

there was no ill will generated when we elevated a section of the great wall.

her family – descendants of a red six-volume book printed quarterly and dating back to the song dynasty – liked to chase unsavoury loans through the back entrance to their home that looked out on the yellow river.

the children were fully aware at the age of nine or ten that this was a well-organised filing cabinet gratified by an embassy that specialises in orientalism.

every day visitors clocked in and out, secure in their swipe-phone knowledges and officious myopias.

the accused were thoroughly examined and depositions from witnesses taken to a line of dinghies moored at the banks where mindless people twitter.

despite paragraph rearrangements here and there, human rights discourse retains all the harshness of wild fruit, and multicultural streams have never been in vogue, damned as they are by sand bags.

the student’s advice:

always use your best people and porcelain cleaned with lavender and baking soda, pay close attention to the heavy legislations framed in wood upwards of one hundred pounds in weight,

forget about binding allowances, and think twice before drawing the colour line because the editor is not white and mao was not the last dancer.

if you look up and admire the light fittings and ceiling cornices, we could be asian-pacific sweethearts for eight hundred years: we celestials excel at kite-flying.


to paint like picasso before 1904

there is a species of tavern where drinkers make disparaging remarks about chinese immigrants. it is patronised by a squadron of pirates of otherwise sweet temperament, who truck their goods with whomever they please.

baring dog-yellow teeth, they sit in plastic fold-up chairs in cheap t-shirts designed by europeans unmolested in canton.

each ship at the bar plays furiously, leaving a trail of wild colonial girls cruelly strangled after the first wash.

in the wake of their missionary grandmothers, the risk these women take is calculated on trigonometrical principles. female players have the option of wearing cones so they don’t get kissed for no reason.

everyone looks for their partners online these days, including an entire class of whining feminists for whom postpartum incontinence has never been a problem, but who nonetheless kegel jade eggs at every opportunity.

it’s hard for these women not to feel violated by the knowledge that their dna is half-man, but the smarter chicks check their purses of emotional labour in (the taverns’) tiny grimy bathrooms and suspend intercourse by returning to campus via the victorian roads.

in high pollen weather, with abscesses fit to burst, they heroically collaborate in their efforts to arrest the flames.

after years of feckless liaisons, some of these women set sail for the orient. landing in the earl’s court, they feel secure in their portion of comparatively uncontaminated empire.

with contempt in equal parts for men and aliens silently stoning their gallbladders, they manage to live peacefully, albeit corpulently, by a calendar of saints for years under a special licence to paint like picasso before 1904.


(beauty peace)

they found it four days after the march, a blue-lipped bulbous thing inside her head,
playing euphoria light and thin as mountain air the month before spring.
our hemispheres whitened at the edges, pressed and pressing, stonewalling surgery.
my fathers grew in a place called mei on 
美安  (beauty peace), the soil there too feeble
to grow vegetables, raise a dog, much less a pig for the new year festivities.
they survived opium bandits jesus the japanese invasion long womanless chinky sojourns
around the pacific rim in all the world’s gum sarns  金山 (gold mountains).
stringing lights with the night nurse was tiresome: clamping, unclamping, watching what:
on the alpine trail it was not the view that giddied – the most important
ancestral-villages-thing grandfather said was still your mind.
we didn’t know that it would seep set in lumps under the paling fence beside the pergola
where the cat lay tight as a macadamia nut, nor did we foresee the leaves
on the pittosporum (pity spores) un-sheening for years after, no one knew 

when we elevated a section of the great wall and to paint like picasso before 1904  were first published in Overland 236 (Spring 2019). Both poems include phrases sourced and adapted from Davis, John Francis. The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and its Inhabitants. Vol. 1. London, 1836.

(beauty peace) was first published online in Stilts 6 (Dec 2019).