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You, the travel guru, always pack
everything – lime shampoo,
flip-flops, nickel silver Nikon &
your true self, who throws popcorns at American
elks at the zoo,
mocks the flamingoes when they flirt
like yoga posers. Back

in the hotel room, 103/F, the sky still looks
irrelevant, that’s how I deduce
loneliness has nothing to do with
distance. It rains, you pride
yourself on the privilege of height seeing
the rain interrupt life down there. There –
slowly, drop by drop,
umbrellas lazy to close, a panoptical view of
fabric mushrooms. I fake
I’m napping when you tell
me about X & Y
(who went to Mexico, where fireworks
is tied around papier-mâché animals
called Judas), so you can
explore the city, alone,

farther than anyone has gone.

And when you’re gone, a smoke detector
sheens on the ceiling,
a lonely satellite allergic to hate.
A hermit must have checked into the same room:
the DO NOT DISTURB sign is wrinkled.

That night, Lost in Translation on TV,
you love Scarlet Johansson’s buttocks
by lace lingerie. They rest
roundly in bed, her face out of frame,
traversing the window.
452 users have rated
this hotel, 19 helpful reviews. On average,
this place is worth 4.12 stars:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ How can a star be 0.12 filled?
Is language the foundation of absence,
hieroglyphics included? Guess what Bill Murray murmurs: [the] point
is not that we can’t hear what [he] communicates,
but that he communicates what can’t be heard
. When we check out, we know
where to go in the lobby, where

you’ll learn to get
used to oblivion, the second serial killer
after cancer. If not,
I hope you’ve written the word SWIRL
on your telephoto lens, so

what we’ve done will look more vibrant,

1997, Hong Kong, returning to China

It’s not the pedigreed corgis they left
at the handover, but the effigy of the Queen
on toothed stamps being self-important
in dusted albums. We bolted to banks to trade
for new coins. We went to the West, away
from communist coxswains, but were whittled
to sculptures called ‘second-tier citizens’,
second to terriers. Our being could start
a chapter in zoology: we’re inedible
bilingual centaurs spreading swine flu
at the turn of century, we’re comrades
of a blue whale found ashore due to sonic
confusion, caribous on a cruise to Malibu.
Even what we used to remember migrated to corners
invisible in brain scan. In Mandarin Oriental,
India, a TV host devoured British scones
and circumscribed cucumber sandwiches
on his sun porch that looked over to rice fields.
A butler next to him. He called the experience
authentic. So were the bees buzzing in their air,
sick of their queen too lazy to move.

Nicholas Wong is the author of Cities of Sameness. His poems are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Gargoyle, Harpur Palate, Natural Bridge, Redactions, The Pinch and upstreet. He is the recipient of Global Fellowship Award at ASU Desert Nights Rising Stars Writer’s Conference in 2012 and a winner of Hawai'i Review's Ian Macmillan Writing Contest (Poetry) in 2012. He edits the poetry section for Mead: Magazine of Literature and Libations, and reads poetry for Drunken Boat. He has recently been nominated for a Pushcart.


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