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Poem: Reflections

Books & Poetry

In this week’s Poet’s Corner contribution, Rory Harris reflects on a tasting-marked trip through Singapore, Manilla and other parts of the Philippines.

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I. Tiger Beer, Singapore

And when the bar girl recalls you
from a couple of years ago
on the plaza behind Orchard Road
you know there is something in the air
and on the table one sweating Tiger Beer
a bucket of ice and two glasses
don’t complicate it.

II. Emperador Brandy, Manila

Smoking just off Pedro Gil Street
Manila Bay over my shoulder
and Robinson’s Place white against
the morning’s commerce sleeps
the night before we hold hands standing
at grace at the long table of Mr Poon’s
two brandies later
I can still thread a needle in the half light
and sew a button at any age.

III. Gold Eagle Beer, Negros Province

At the Su-ay Market the smile of Angelique
and the sky rains candy
I sit with her sister Rose
in the burnt-out shell of their shop
the day after the fire they cleaned up
the next day was trading as usual
their savings bought new stock
insurance is a First World luxury
I drink a couple of almost-cold beers
delivered tops off from the shop next door
love is a crucifix around the neck of the day
I buy a dozen at the Columbian Mission and get one free.

IV. Cane brandy, Negros again

Mangrove planting and the earth rises
a big lunch inside stilted houses
over the estuary fish jump into nets
and the students delight in their easy labour
in the cotton clad night
a dream of rain to raise the crops from our lives
I sip brandy made from sugar cane
and re-read the label too many times
at the dam we strip down to ourselves
and wash away the last few days
it is the Feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz
and lunch is spectacular.

V. Water into beer, via Bacolod City

John Carl brushes his lips against my face
a lit candle and flowers are on the table
his brother dead almost a year and with these new tears
we sip water in the house of his parents
his grandmother wants to feed us
the bus will be here in five minutes
we rest in our silences and move through the day
this is a three beer wait
and I’m doing the washing up from lunch
when the driver knocks on the scullery door
looking for threads to knit a pattern
we hug the coast road to Bacolod.

VI. Beer into coconut wine, inner city barrio

After breakfast we stroll through the Barangay
an almost cold beer for morning snack
afternoon tea is coconut wine and chicken and noodles
supper is a feast and kids filling the house
and when the rain comes it breaks
the sky open and the street’s a flood of litter
and then through the calm
we step around our silences
a prayer to the cooling night
a string of taxis turning to where land ends.

Rory Harris was one of Poet’s Corner’s very first contributors in its Independent Weekly print days. Of a number of published poetry collections, ‘Beach’ was his most recent in 2016. Rory has had radio dramas translated into Solomon Islands Pijin for broadcast on National Radio Solomon Islands. He teaches at Christian Brothers College in Wakefield Street, where he is currently the faith and liturgy co-ordinator.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.

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