Poem introduction

Some time after my husband retired I was appointed writer-in-residence to the University in Singapore and we decided to spend some months in the Far East. Just before we set out, though, my husband broke his ankle on a slippery pavement outside a Do-It-Yourself shop. But he very obstinately decided he was still going to come to Singapore. It was a very happy experience.

Wheelchair

Wheelchair

We've travelled on a bumboat on the green South China seas,
seen papaya, dates and coconuts in crotches of the trees
and in Hawker centres Singapore keep quietly policed
eaten hundred year old eggs and fishbrains wrapped in bamboo leaf.
We've seen coolies who sold goats milk and the men who
plundered them
while the ghosts of Maugham and Coward haunt the new Raffles
hotel;

but the most surprising feature of the perils we have passed
is you've travelled in a wheelchair with your left leg in a cast.
Most people would have had more sense, but we were both surprised
to find it rather soothing. And one day we surmised:
you needed an attention that I hardly ever pay
while I enjoyed the knowledge that you couldn't get away.

Now the generator flickers far inland in Campuhan
and we lie inside our cottage cooled remotely by a fan,
or take a bath among the ferns and tall hibiscus trees.
Green rice grows in the paddy fields, we pick the coffee beans.
And outside, parked and ready, sits the chair that takes you round
to explore in a contentment that we've only rarely found.


from Collected Poems and Translations (Carcanet Press, 2002), copyright © Elaine Feinstein 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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