poem | for the feelings that stick with us wherever we go


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ice cream with you, alone in hong kong — a broken glosa by dinika govender



I
And the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint.
You suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them.

II
It seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience––which is not going to go wasted on me, which is why I’m telling you about it.

–– Having A Coke With You, Frank O’Hara



I


Eating ice cream with you at the end of the day, or the middle of the night, or the start of the next––wait.
It’s hard to tell exactly when the tapping out of work and into play starts in a city lit up
like the world’s longest running game of Pacman. But unwrapping a green-tea cone with you, alone in Hong Kong,
is better than the view of the Symphony of Lights from Tsim Sha Tsui at 8PM, 
or seeing kids stealing kisses on cue when the Samsung building lights up with an i <3 u,
or maybe not as funny as that jumbo floating restaurant––a swollen lantern bobbing about––
trying to pass off a cover of Wonderwall. Better than watching light-beams flash from blue to red to bolting down skyscrapers and bouncing off your face (which is the closest I think the night will come to seeing you blush),
was the look in your eyes right before you shut them and said, “All I see are light spots like oil drops.
This portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint.”





Your closed smiling eyes is where the real symphony is.
I do not have all the words, but it’s a music I can see.
If this were a game of hide-and-seek I’d run to the opposite of end of Victoria Harbour
to dissolve among the mainlanders in their silk keipos and Adidas kicks
––only to discover that I am insoluble in such a crowd. And so are you.
Then perhaps we’d get on a train and abandon the whole game. Well,
because, didn’t you notice––they don’t seem to sell postcards anymore.
Not like before anyway, when you’d have to sift through a library of wish-you-were-heres
even though you really wished no such thing. You just had to write home to say that you weren’t dead.
You suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever sent them.




II


Do you ever wonder who else in the whole world might be listening to the exact same song as you right now?
Please don’t actually do the maths (even though we both know you can and
yes it’s highly probable depending on our sample size and the phase of the moon etcetera etcetera).
For a minute, I dare you, contemplate with me the possibility that there’s someone in this very bus
––maybe the woman with glitter on her nails, or the boy with the mutant schoolbag
or the girl who always sits in the front row of the top deck facing the road.
Maybe it’s one of them dancing on the inside to the exact same song as you and thinking about
whatever it is they’re going towards or leaving behind or wandering in circles around.
We’ll never actually know, I know, and they won’t either. But that won’t make it untrue and that’s what’s special about it, you know?
Just sitting here, it seems we were all cheated of some marvelous experience.




We are only half-cheated, because we’re at least contemplating the idea. Well, I am.
(I don’t know what you’re thinking and, wow, I wish I did). We cannot say for sure
if the woman with glitter on her nails, or the boy with the mutant schoolbag,
or the girl who always sits in the front row of the top deck facing the road are not thinking about it too.
The song—not you. It’s plausible. Just like it’s plausible that if we’re playing ‘I spy a neighbour’
from the window of that skyscraper, maybe someone else is playing it too,
and maybe everyone is spying on everyone and no one’s looking close enough
at the closed smiling eyes right next to them. Because, when you’re that far up from the ground
and there’s a thousand tiny windows like fish tanks all around, it’s easy to miss
––but it’s not (you’re not) going to go wasted on me, which is why I’m telling you about it (about us).

[end]




A note about the glosa
The glosa is an example of “form”, or structured, poetry. Glosas were widely used by Spanish court poets in the 14th and 15th Century. It has been less popular among English poets. In the common glosa, the poem opens with a four-line stanza––typically a quote from another, usually well-known poem. This section is known as the texte or cabeza.
The rest of the poem is made of 4 ten-line stanzas. The last line of each of these stanzas is a line from the first quoted stanza in consecutive order.
The sixth and ninth lines of each stanza should rhyme with the ten line.
The main body of the poem (the ten line stanzas) are a gloss on the contents of the opening four-line stanza.



Photographs by Dinika Govender


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Mark