Swimming the Saltwater City

Poem for Judy Lam Maxwell by Alan Hill

 

It was Judy who took me through Chinatown on foot

 

shimmied me through the last remaining courtyard, into

the last remaining tailor shop .

 

He sat, aged 93, looking me over

measuring me up

possibly too generous in the being he quickly stitched of me.

 

Later, we worked a way across East Pender Street

between the sharpened needles of spring sunlight

splintering themselves skywards from the heavy traffic

 

guided ourselves

up the spindly five flight spine of the Chin Wing Chun

 

to slip between a thinning weave of seniors

hunched over the clacking munitions of Mah-Jong

 

their tiles stretched in calligraphic curves across sunset red tables

 

the aging players bunched beneath the miniature

specimen display head shots of the long dead.

 

She stopped me on the balcony; there was nowhere else to go

In the street below we could see it:

 

the hipster coffee bars and condos moving in

the ironic bearded, tattooed new

the steady advancement of all that money

 

that has been so long needed – coming now, unstoppable

to bleach this whole place white, crush it

with its avalanche of cash.