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This poem is taken from Stand 213, 15(1) March - May 2017.

David Tait Four Poems
Everything Needs a Name

South station
, master. I heave my suitcase
onto the seat and close the door. South station?
South station? Your Chinese is very good.

We pull out from Liede Village, past the ancestral houses
and head downtown. It’s 4am, the hour the haulage truck
and we’re the only car on the street.  

We climb the whalebone bridge, take the elevated roadway
and the driver yawns. You are a what country person?
he asks and I tell him England. England he says, England

then sighs. The city’s as quiet as I’ve seen it.
We speed along the highway, surveillance cameras flashing
and I’m thinking of my arrival here, all black smog

and sullenness, three hours delayed and my driver muttering
as he thundered down the same highway. And where going?
he asks. I tell him. Chengdu? Chengdu? Why don’t you fly?

I tell him I’m scared of flying and he laughs and laughs
until he coughs. An English in China afraid to fly!
He laughs and coughs and spits out phlegm.

I look outside the window and see the James Joyce
Coffee Hotel announced in big red letters. The
                                                  driver carries on:
Chengdu is extremely beautiful, he says, delicious food
beautiful women and you should visit the pandas.

I ask him if he’s been there and he says yes,
but long ago.
He slows as we approach the station.

It’s massive, but distant, a glowing white airport hangar,
but at this hour the approach roads are shut.
                                                      I’ll drop you here
he says, you must walk the last mile. I thank him, step out.

The armed guard at the approach road nods as I approach,
says okay to my (this-way?) gesture. I walk the last mile
towards the station, eight hundred miles from Chengdu.

Cable Car to Tian Tan
(For Abigail Parry)

                                           Metal bell of rainwater
                                                                               you lift us
                                                                                             your steady
                                                                                                                slovenly arm
                                                                                                                   as we zigzag
                                                                                   through the wind
                                                         up into the gloam
                                                                         and other travellers
                                                                                                      conjure themselves
                                                                                                                   like                 and
                                                                                                                   des                        the
                                                                                                                   cen                              futile
                                                                                                                   ding                                     blades of
                                                                                                                   phantoms                                                helicopters
                                                                                                               and are gone although
                                                                                                       we can hear people
                                                                                                       chanting on the hill
                                                                                                       and it feels like voices
                                                                                                       are all around us
                                                                                                       zipwiring or heaved up
                                                                                                       I’ve got you don’t let go
                                                                                                       and I remember the snow
                                                                                                       and fog of winter at Red Tarn
                                                                                                     and the helpless calling out
                                                                                                             from Striding Edge
                                                                                                  and the futile blades of helicopters.

The Black Light Indicates the Stations You Will Visit.
The Green Light Indicates the Stations You Have Been.

We are travelling on a strange metro.
For once there are seats but we prefer to stand.
The doors open and the people rush past all shadowy.
At every station everyone gets off and then back on.
But not you.
You look for the interchange, but the words are indecipherable.
All the little dots are flashing red.
Sometimes you make to get off but the crowd cuts you off.
Or the crowd surges towards you.
They are all hunger or anger and steel.
You battle to try to get through them.
It will do no good.

Autumn in the Airport

The storms are crackling overhead and planes
queue up on the runway, their wings spread
out in surrender, waiting for the worst to be over.

I wait in departures and stare at the board,
listening to the announcements but dumb
to their meaning. The rain plays the roof like a drum.

I guess that purgatory would be like this, the frosted glass
of the smoking room, a curious ice-cube giving up
it’s bones. I watch vague men with their dwindling cigs

and pour myself another glass of duty free wine.
I'd finish my novel, but I don’t like the hero.
I'd go to the prayer room, but who would I pray for?

This poem is taken from Stand 213, 15(1) March - May 2017.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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