The Dim Sum Ballroom
Past dawn they ramble into the Dim Sum Ballroom,
the Codgers Club, at ease in well-worn eccentricity.
I have grown fond of them, how
they rally saucer, cup, bowl, chopsticks, teapot,
plod to canisters of tea and spigots of scalding water.
They rinse their dishes with cleansing tea
and dump it in a plastic bowl on the lazy susan,
at the steam table they point at dumplings.
Jacketed youths, glazed by early rising,
plunk choices on trays, rubber-stamp the bills.
The codgers pluck at steamed buns and from soup
spit out bony bits. A codger here and there swigs
brandy or goes about a postprandial smoke.
My eyes take them in, all of them, my skin,
alarmingly white in the brown-yellow wave,
begs admission to the company of codgers
and with them start the day. In a year
a few of them may not be around, no more may I.
While we’re here we can share
what life gives us in its small amounts.
There is the whiteness of the horse or the whiteness of the snow in ancient Chinese philosophy, but not whiteness as an abstract, detachable concept that can be applied to almost anything. Richard E. Nisbett, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and why
The white of a polar bear that fails to do its laundry,
the white of the snow where the polar bear pees —
but that wouldn’t be whiteness, would it?
The white of the ice on which the polar bear walks,
so pale it’s nearly no colour —but that’s what white is,
isn’t it? The white of a horse the polar bear meets.
They startle one another with their whiteness.
“What are you doing here?” they ask one another,
each in his own white.
I did not come to Hong Kong for a massage
but it’s hard to convince otherwise
the thickly made-up woman keeping long hours
in the doorway of the building in which
my pillbox windowless room resides.
Why would anyone want a massage
even to keep out of the rain pouring which it’s been doing
all afternoon as the woman pursues her thankless task
of handing out her invitations. A younger associate
urges me to get a massage and I refuse
once more as the rain keeps streaming.
She asks me where I’m from and I say “Canada,”
She says lots of Americans want massages
but she doesn’t know about Canada. People advance
into the building and maybe they’re going to their rooms
or maybe to offices or the premises of a bespoke tailor
whose sales force is out on the street dodging the downpour
and it’s the kind of day one has to ask why anybody
would want to come to Hong Kong for a massage
or for any reason at all. Yet many do.
© Fraser Sutherland
Fraser Sutherland has published nine poetry collections, most recently, The Philosophy of As If. Mr. Sutherland lives in Toronto, Canada when not in Guangzhou, China.