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Wang Xiuying

Dear RoomHugo Williams
Close
Close

1

Are you still Chinese yellow?
Are your blinds still drawn
against prying eyes on the tops of buses?
How well I remember you,
perched beside a traffic-light
on the corner of Ladbroke Grove,
our tree-house lookout post,
shuddering and shaking all night
to the jamming of gears,
the headlights of cars
kerb-crawling the platform where we slept.
You held us suspended
halfway between heaven and earth that year.
We climbed up into the fork
of our lookout tree
and kicked the ladder away.

2

You were always more part of the street
than part of the house,
which only seemed to exist
as a doorway, a darkened hall,
an excited flight of stairs.
You were a half-floor,
tacked to the side of the building
as an afterthought, an extension of the landing
suspended in midair.
We tried not to walk too heavily.

Room, you taught us to live dangerously,
striped light coming through the blinds
and falling on the bed
where we lay too close to the edge.
Love in that half-world
was a seabird’s egg, tapered and weighted
to roll only in that circle
which the ledge allowed was tenable.
If one of us lost balance
we would tumble into the street.

3

I’ve heard she keeps you on
as a studio, somewhere to escape to
from new-found domesticity.
Once or twice a week – or is it less? –
she’ll drop by to water the plants, sulk,
or do a little work
sorting through her old stuff for jumble sale.
I think of her, getting ready to go out,
meeting my gaze in the long mirror,
eyes already sheeted for departure.

Room, you must be wondering
what she is planning to do with you
now that everything is stripped bare, made good,
painted matt magnolia.
I’ve been wondering the same thing myself.
As she picks up an old blue dress
and holds it against herself for a moment,
I almost imagine her
staring at me across London,
daring me to blink.

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