David McKirdy

Outward Bound

Hannibal crossed The Alps
for conquest and glory.
We, adventurers of a different stripe
crossed the sea
destination Hong Kong
on the P&O liner
S.S. Carthage
built by fellow Scots, launched on our own River Clyde.

Up the gangway hand in hand we boarded
working class folk with boot-strap aspirations
to cabins
second class
the apartheid of imperial caste.
No P.O.S.H. travel for us but S.O.S.O. -
‘Starboard out, staying out’
unlike that great general
never coming home
to disappointment and betrayal.

As we wave goodbye streamers sever our links
leaving monochrome memories and the 1950s in our wake
through Port Said, Suez, Aden and beyond
black-and-white Britain displaced, obscured
forgotten by senses now shaken by
shocking, pungent, grating
colours, odours and sounds
familiarity growing as we travel ever Eastward
warm and wet like a return to the womb.

Perhaps I’ll linger here a while.

Ancestral Worship

I’ve got the blood of China in my veins
not through father, mother or distant forebears
but passed on from another’s ancient line.
Seven pints passed through the eye of a needle
the anonymous gift of life
for a bastard son, a white ghost!

I feel different
as I look at life
through my wider
less jaundiced eyes.

We Chinese treasure our traditions
but whose ancestors should I worship now
mine, or his?
Maybe I’ll just give thanks
pay homage to an eternal Mother
and the universal Father.