The Operation

Peter Goldsworthy

Becoming the person you have always been
inside cannot be rushed. Dressing up
in secret clothes at home – batiks and silks,
caftans, sarongs – is all that you may need.
If not, cuisine comes next: Asian takeaway
in confidential brown paper bags. Only when ready
come out in public: sitting at roadside stalls
proudly becoming what you eat, stir-fry and rice,
and more rice, in small civilised portions. Now
you must use only chopsticks, or the washed right hand
alone, and rise always from the floor still hungry,
feeling smaller already, and daintier, and more refined.
Soon the hormone shots will darken the skin.
Submit to these procedures first: the chest-waxing,
the lid-narrowing. And the nose-job, of course:
you are leaving Big-Nose Europe behind.
There can be no turning back; you are ready now
for The Operation. A foot of flesh, at least, must go:
the whole high pulpit of European condescension.
Not everything is height: you must learn to look up,
not down. Courses should be taken in History and Language,
in Chief Exports and Rainfall and especially Climate:
stirred by the wings of strange, bright butterflies
the monsoons are moving closer; already the summers
feel wetter, the winters hotter. There is pain, of course,
but there is also peace: a slow-motion happiness
oddly free of itself, free of shag-haired Europe
and its doggy emotions. Dogs are for eating now,
with the careful, inscrutable manners of a cat.
Suddenly the bandages are off, and everything can be seen.
The world has gone as quiet as a temple garden.
Meditate for a time in the open sun, safe from zinc
and freckles, the last ice melting from your heart,
the brooding indoor races of the North at last forgotten.