City of Change

by Kate Rogers

Where I came to wear
my skin fresh
side out. Where I’ve learned
to live with dangerous snakes—
bamboo vipers that drape the
trunks of trees, like vines
thickened by the pull
of wind, pythons that slide onto
trails with the heavy rain to
wait to strangle
Labradors, Poodles
Barking deer, to swallow
them whole in slow
mo—like the maw of the
Cross-Harbour Tunnel at
Hung Hom—choked
with cars, double-decker buses
re-circulating exhaust fumes for
the passengers who do not smoke.

The sign at stops:
“Do not spit:
1000 Hong Kong
dollar fine.”
Eager to seem polite,
locals swallow their gritty phlegm.

City of change, where winter
drags spring into
its dark den in the rocks,
fog forgets its quilt
in the rain. My joints remind me
of my age. The peaks
I climbed for years without a cane,
now tremble my knees.
My students write memoirs
for their dreams. Adopt
establishment slang:
“Fai ching”:
For the “useless generation”—
to describe themselves.
They drift in and out
of class like clouds.
The sun has been kidnapped,
but no one wants to search the hills.
When it finally shines the heat
of its confession will blind us
with relief.

City of change, your pile
driver by the ferry docks shakes
the silence I horde. On the paved
hillside another grave urn
is emptied to make room
for a new rotation of bones.

City of change, every summer I swim
lengths in the outdoor pool,
my skin absorbs more light. An hour of
back crawl pulls me across the sky,
but I never reach the lake
beside my mother’s house.

 

Poet’s Note on City of Change

“Useless generation” Blue Ribbon, pro-establishment Cantonese slang for Yellow Ribbon Occupy supporters

Editor’s Note on City of Change:

City of Change is not Kate Rogers’ first work to appear in Eastlit. Her previous published pieces are:

 

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