I met a man, doors half-off,
wind keening through rent masonry,
bitter vines embracing stone.

I took my bricks and patched him up,
killing weeds with lemonade,
righting doors with tender patience.

Never enough, this love I poured
into a shell held together
by damage, secure in regret.

My home has no white picket fence,
but with a lick of paint it shines.
I bury my damage out back.

By Ken Lund, via Wikimedia Commons

Archive: Home from home


From my recent trip back to Britain.

“Sorry pet,”
she said, and smiled
as I pushed in front of her.
Instincts honed
or hardened,
elbows sharpened
in the Hanoi scrum
I have become
imperceptibly, almost
alien in my own land.

Hanoi traffic

Excuse me! Excuse me? Excu- BEEEEP (By Dragfyre, via Wikimedia Commons)

From here on November 14th 2011.

Archive: The way home


This poem is inspired by the fact that, for the first month or so after moving to Hanoi, I was unable to locate my own house with any confidence.

First into the maelstrom,
the swirling tumult
of people going places
that are far more important
than anywhere you are.

Then suddenly into serenity:
knowing swans
bearing furtive lovers
across a neon-lit lake.

Down a tree-lined side street,
past unseen embassies
and gangly soldiers in guard posts
ringed with sunflower seed shells.

Out on to Dọi Cán,
past a shoeless Santa on a plastic stool
yelling at a man up a ladder
without ever losing grip on his dog-end.

Left at the pile of rubble
in the middle of a choked intersection,
scattering hooting Hondas
among the fruit and chickens.

Past the hospital
and the lady xe-om drivers
who pat their bike seats maternally
and cackle uproariously
when you say no.

Then the free-for-all at the gas stand,
and left-right-left down the winding street
that my landlord describes as “go straight”.

Through the narrow lane
that rings with the sound of construction
and shy hellos
from upper floors.

Follow the shrieks to the school and
under a spreading tree,
past eurodisco aerobics
and razor-sharp pyjama-clad badminton stand-offs.

Thread through the tea drinkers
outside the second staircase
of the faded ochre building
and then up.

Skirt the ping pong match
in the fourth floor corridor
and skip over the skeleton of a kumquat tree
to my front door.

Please take your shoes off
and don’t mind my geckos.

Hanoi home

The view from my balcony.

From here on October 6th 2011.