Two Poems

Douglas Oliver

Chinese Bridport

Then the morning shadow falls, suddenly slanting
down monstrous apartment blocks at Porte de Choisy
and its Chinatown, over a piazza of pagoda-style
kiosks. Diaspora money with its huge fist
has thrust buildings into earth here, cliffs of them
with mud-coloured balconies and strata of pallid walls.
Knocking from his heights, an Asian fixes a lathe
and he knocks at my heart till morning shadows slant
again down Bridport’s cliffs, an early time in England
by a calm sea, a place to start poetry from.
Everyone hurries across the piazza; there’s push-chair
after push-chair, new growth, and a man spits
dangerously over the head of the baby he’s wheeling.

Money in Sunshine

For J.H. Prynne

Jeremy, marvellously tight in your word orders,
your lines never run on endlessly like this huge
rectangular high-riser; though, if the sky’s blue,
it sharpens into a classic. A pigeon flights
along precipices, past shrubs at balcony levels.
Peregrine falcon. Downstairs, a window
mumbles in Cambodian and higher up
glass swivels inwards, holes in the bedazzled.
After immigrant hardship, families come
to this excessively sublime wall of flats:
an escape from sewing, their children at it
too; they’ve saved harder than I could; bins
in the malls filled with cottons, male underpants
for a pittance; the female have vestigial lace,
go baggy in the crotch. Chinese speculators,
whose raw energy and care I admire, stretched
these balconies on too long, wanting a luxury
to gaze at. It’s like a poem with a word order
betrayed by volubility, money destroying
the limits of syllables because it won’t stop
talking until all the profit is squeezed out.