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China, with apologies to Ginsberg

Andrew Burke |  04 November 2008

12th step meeting
after tales of
wasted years
and reclamation
Yamatji girl said
'when I had a feeling
I had a drink'
and I laughed
so as not to
offend anybody
she said
'no wonder ya larfed.
you're whitefella'

This Land In Time
'How quietly time collapses in a poem.'
Yannis Ritsos

the land lies silent
under foot under hoof
under wheel

this land scarred
by English terms
of management

barbed-wire fences
rugged roads
open-cut mines

its people lost
in a culture so

Taibai Mountain poem
for Jen

I saw a shining moon last night
through leafy poplars and pines
on Taibai Mountain
and thought of you awake
amid the lowing of Brahman bulls.

I thought of Li Bai
spilling ink down the mountain
leaving black stains
and wondered whose Dreaming
spilt red on The Kimberley?

More rain today
Late Summer, Linfen

More rain today than fell last year. Pollution
coats the buildings as rain falls perpendicular.
Linfen's drainage system overflows
and baby-faced police huddle in muddy vans
while the townsfolk welcome the wash:
a little soap in the alleys' armpits,
sunny deodorant with dawn perhaps.
Inside, street vendors huddle, stretching
yesterday's Yuans like old inner tubes.
The gatekeeper pulls a grey sheet over
his knobbly knees on his roadside cot.
Beyond Linfen city, farmers wave as
roads run with mud and crops drink deep.
Tomorrow shines like sunflowers in their eyes.

with apologies to Ginsberg

China, I am packing up little pieces of you
ready to leave your sures and doubts,

ready to look over my shoulder with
a postscript wave and wonder.

China, it is dark under this tree and the moon
cannot penetrate your greedy industrial smoke.

I'm waiting to see how much poetry is in
the Dragon Boat Festival — Does it always

have to be about food, China? It's Qu Yuan's
death that's important, yesterday and today.

Can we learn from history, Big Panda?
If you go out on a weak limb, it will break.

China, too much America is not good for you.
Follow your own Confucius-Marx mix.

China, where's your Green Card?
Where's your Green Party?

Let them learn Mandarin, China —
you have enough people to swing it.

Don't let them seduce you with their beads
and mirrors. You're worth more than that.

I buy your trinkets and Good Luck charms
but I don't buy your Western ways.

This world is a hall of mirrors,
keep your eyes peeled.

It's not just currency that's counterfeit.

Andrew BurkeAndrew Burke is a Perth poet who has been publishing since the mid-1960s. In recent years he has taught at Shanxi Normal University in Linfen, China, and at Wanalirri Catholic School, Gibb River Station, in The Kimberley, Western Australia. He presently works part-time at Edith Cowan University where he received a PhD in 2006.


Andrew Burke


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Submitted comments

Enjoyed all these poems, esp. "China".
Cheers, Helen

Helen Hagemann 05 November 2008

Enjoyed these poems. Love the 'I'm packing up little pieces of you/ready to leave your sures and doubts' - great movement within the lines. Thanks for sharing.

Rose van Son 05 November 2008

know something about the 12 step thing. though not a glum lot some things are funnier to some than others. dranktodrinktodrunk. contact?

rewatlingjr 21 November 2008

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