THE YEAR OF THE DOG


1. Business as usual

It occurred to me late last night in bed
That life is anxiety piled on anxiety
And the continual struggle to relax.
The thought kept me awake, and it's
Keeping me awake now, this afternoon,
A day uncertain of its own temperature,
('The northeast monsoon is bringing
generally cold weather to southern
China.'
) moments after discovering one
Of my front teeth, a tooth that's always been
Crooked, is now becoming loose,
And I have always hated that tooth
Although its loss will pose some problems,
Mostly to do with dentists, money, fear,
I am in an absolutely foreign country,
And will I ever whistle cheerily again?
If I tell you I am anxious it would be
A good idea if you only half believed me,
As if you were interested, which
I doubt you are, which maybe even I'm not,
Thrown back upon my own devices,
All of which at one time or another
Have proven themselves inadequate for the task.
And there's another thing: late last night in bed
Listening to everything so quiet, then someone
In another apartment laughing so loudly
I started to think about how a man kills
A chicken so his family can have it for dinner,
I'm not even sure he and his wife ever sleep,
I know for sure she has at least two jobs,
And this man, yesterday I was in his house
In the middle of I don't know where it was
Completely unable to understand that life,
I was surrounded by a world beyond me,
And I had a thought but couldn't say.
Whatever, it was a useless thought, as usual.


2. Is he gone yet?

Fuck, it's cold! Or I am cold and going
Down with something, down to town perhaps
Or the food factory and her mother. In all
Of the photographs except one the girl I am
Thinking about is beautiful, more beauty
Than I can withstand. But on the beach
How many grains of sand, how many footprints
Coming and going and washed away by the tide,
And in the sky, how many stars, how many
Lights in the city, how many futile ideas
Can one person have before it's too late?
I think the answer to that question is
A very big number indeed, but meanwhile
Here's another one: I'm going to run away
And make a film of the whole thing.
I'll tape a video camera to my forehead
So nothing's missed, then when I'm completely
Gone I'll use Windows Movie Maker

To turn it into a proper movie kind of thing
And it'll be good. Look at me smile madly.
Running away is a good idea, isn't it?
And the movie idea is a better one.
'If you listen to me you might learn something
for once,'
he said.
Oh, how we laughed.


3. Yes, he's a dictator, he's an ass

Nothing I say matters. I today had a sudden
And unbidden insight into death and felt
What I think was the void and it was a new idea
For me and I think maybe I will live now
And die tomorrow and it doesn't matter. But
It does. What will my kids think?
I am confused and scared. I am alright
But thinking about what to do. If music
Explains how feelings work and what thought
Is, then how come poetry, whatever it is,
Too often fails me? Then suddenly a light
Goes on and everything becomes clear because
Clarity kicks in, but the last time I trusted
In clarity I was burned by fire and madness
So maybe I'll skip that. Perhaps it's the wine
But I think it's the philosophy of thinking.
Whatever, I'm happy I had this insight
And that I don't have an atrocious haircut.


4. A stray dog wanders in front of our motorcycle

January the 25th, 2006. On the 29th it will be
A new year in China, and it's also Mengchao's birthday.
She is one of the most beautiful people I know.

Yesterday I was one of three people with luggage
On a motorcycle dashing to Huizhou
To catch a bus and I thought I was going to die.

Chinese roads are filled with potholes and madmen
And other Chinese people wander or ride out
In front of you like you are not there.

I don't know what the official statistics are
For road deaths in China but yesterday
I thought I was going to be one of them.

Then a dog trots across the front of your eyes.
You don't want to see a dog die but neither do you
Want to die. It's a choice has to be made.

Mengchao, I hope you have a happy birthday.
I wish I was at your home with you, looking
Into your eyes, eyes that see a future filled with light.


5. A future filled with light

If life is anxiety piled on anxiety
Then I must be dead. I don't feel much
Beyond not wanting to get out of bed
And trying not to be anxious. I have
A roof over my head and technology
To keep me caressed so how come
Pleasures are becoming tedious?
Love runs the risk of disease so perhaps
I will fall in love, but only for a few minutes.
Then there is the picture of an ending
Where a really handsome man is
Being very handsome, and happy,
And he is sailing along somewhere
As if the world has been made only for him,
The shops open at the most convenient times,
Schoolgirls think he's very cool,
And here he is, cruising around the streets
(Can you see him?) and the future is bright,
The future is, what's the colour? Oh, and
He is in love, sometimes with himself
But it's a love hate relationship,
The road is a bit of a dead end really,
And he is running out of jokes, then
Suddenly he's in a dream, or on a motorcycle
In the middle of nowhere, and here is
A dog, and a sudden blinding blinding light.


          Martin Stannard 2006