James Stuart’s most recent works include: online poem-world The Homeless Gods (www.thehomelessgods.net); Conversions, an exhibition of poetry in translation (Chengdu, Suzhou and Beijing); and, The Material Poem, an e-anthology of text-based art and inter-media writing (www.nongeneric.net). He was a 2008 Asialink Literature Resident in Chengdu, China, supported by the Australia Council and Arts NSW.





Guangdong sidewalk


It’s time to savour your European life. At the airport

she combs her hair back into the Third World War:


Style is effortless the same way it’s easy

to have something unless everyone wants it too.


What emerges from urban pixellation is the greyest

of mysteries, furtive glance down an original side street.


You take each such image & let it vibrate

beneath the weight of two dialects, a single script.


I would join the chorus, though here

we pass only as much as one remains.


Soon the administrator’s garden, meandering,

revelation in the updraught of a smog-free sky.




May 2009 – Chengdu, Sichuan, China


A private celebration: mother

weeps; string of cameras carries

this likeness to row upon row of the remote.

What can you feel when the day turns to stone?


On a white beach south-west of Santiago

they feel it too: goose bumps in the cool sea breeze;

frosted glasses of Piña Colada; space afloat,

emptied. Handfuls of silence that pock-mark the air.


Then the unfolding of tides, lightly creased

linen of a surface which entombs

such reactions: nameless black water

layer upon layer of the stuff.


Skimming back across oceans to where a coordinated

wail rings out, appeasing humiliation

with pronouns & possessives

igniting public squares & campuses,

propane fists, their uranium hearts:

emotions when definite become

sharp, cut through whole crowds. This atonement

for the reckless anarchy of earth.


Against a sunset human shadows are

as paper dolls, barbs of phosphorescent light.

Finally, the arrival of the dead in wave

upon wave of photographs, spliced

narratives: unfurling,

an open wound, its destructive pomp.





Dim sum, the city’s great tradition: the captain of the steam cart

makes a beeline for our table across the vulgar carpet

then zig-zags port-side at the last minute.


We conceal disappointment behind the rain checks:

what can’t you find in a supermarket these days!?

In Aisle 4: plantation palm oil & the latest flavonoids.

Aisle 6: a numinous stream of crockery & chopsticks.


Ours was a world less innocent than such winding threads

of fluoro strip-lights & the gradual advent of disposable nappies.

For old times sake, let’s label our prejudices for the sample jars.

We’ll examine them tomorrow, over an ice-cold mango drink

in the laced shade of these hat brims,

though such a colonial taxonomy is sure to kill the mood.


Today remains your day. From his shrine, the North God

delegates aesthetic decisions as to the appearance of his idols –

that old fraudster! When the whistle blows, migrant workers

swim beneath the bridge and back to their dormitories,

a procession of orange hard-hats and flip-flops.


If you have ever seen such a sight

you are either immortal or a liar – for only now,

in the fragrant patio of dusk, do a pride of rosewood lions

pad out from the razed mangroves & prowl the foreshore

pawing at a rattan ball marked Made in Burma.