Sunday 23 June 2013


try to make their women beautiful
by putting brass rings
around their necks
to lengthen them.
The weight
bears down and displaces
their collar bones,
so their necks appear to elevate.

It is a branch of creative aesthetics
which has its equivalent
among the Benin in Africa
and in the mutilated women’s feet
of Imperial China.

It does not make the women
more beautiful
but it does draw tourists
(as do Tracey Emin’s knickers).

Among the Meo,
an unmarried mother
is more desirable as a wife
than a virgin.
She has proved her fertility;
her children will be welcome workers
in the family’s fields.

She teaches English thirteen hours a week.
Who do you live with, Nonglak?
“I live with mother.”
When Nonglak was a baby,
her aunt said to her mother,
“I have no children.
Give me your baby.”
So, Nonglak’s mother gave her the baby.
She has always called her aunt “mother”.
Now her aunt is dead.

For four years,
the coffin has rested in the house
waiting for cremation.

Who do you live with, Nonglak?
“I live with mother.
I live with mother!”

Super-talented children
play on the eternal beach,
building castles and cities
and civilisations and worlds,
anything, everything they want;
and try to keep all and each
out of everyone else’s reach.

Dancing around hand in hand,
they themselves are powdered sand.

The sun shines down
burning them brown.

The sea rolls in
ironing everything
smooth and flat and thin.

From Bamboo Leaves by Brian Taylor

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