Terry Jaensch

Travel & Transitioning

Two Poems

Sight-Seer

Haggling at Clarke Quay

I keep my humour,
the proprietor his –

jovial but firm.
The joke an antiquity,

punch-line a rumour.
The Quay plainly put:

bent at this juncture.
More aesthete than buyer

the argument’s won
in looking farther

afield. Or flattering
his smoking gun –

drawn from cloth,
dust jacket cracking:

“Singapore boobies,”
jaundiced early eighties

erotica. More aesthete
than buyer I ask after

Mao-ist propaganda.
Despotic kitsch, busts

and pins I should care
less about, nor humour.

He starts at twenty,
I work my way down

– jovial but firm –
something of my taste

for the “early eighties”
in Mao’s receding hair-line.

Karaoke (Babylon)

He’s not exactly speaking my language, eyeing
himself in the side-board mirror. Sticky rice
queen slumming it, not exactly singing – to me.

His face, the choreographed collective of the duo
on screen, signing its availability to already
established markets. Pre-pubescent mandarin

breaking into even more underdeveloped English:
ooh baby, baby. For all his grasp, its perfunction –
open the window. Ooh open the window, aah open

the window. Someone else’s standard in a bar filled
with mirrors, singletted, tank topped, body shirted like
so much peanut flesh encased in shell. He holds the mic

like a phallus, my gaze for like seconds and the room
choruses ad lib to fade: will any of us have a career
over thirty, will any of us have a career over thirty –

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