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40. France (Paris, New Year’s Eve, 1989)

Champs Elysee, twenty-four: the whole world before me.
Uniting adrenalin of the pulsating crowd:
350,000 intimate strangers surging as one euphoric organism.
Midnight hovers.
A collective breath …..
BONNE ANNÉE!!!!

Then. Rush for the last metro
Trammeled and crushed, footing lost …. panic!!!
then …. relief!
Spewed to the side like yesterday’s resolutions.

jpm

39. Hong Kong

39. Hong Kong

The pulsating mass that is Victoria Harbour:

Ferries and junks and boating allsorts
heaving and jockeying for position.
A constant throb of diesel amidst the rolling chop.

Littered with worn commuters,
Hurrying to insert themselves into the vertical living of Hong Kong’s sky high towers,
no elbow room to spare.

jpm

38. Sri Lanka

38. Sri Lanka

In the Galle Face Hotel, there is an ancient lift attendant supervising a still more ancient mechanical lift.
Smiles creasing the corners of his gracious eyes, from his perch in the corner he politely refuses entry, pointing to the copperplate sign:
‘Take the stairs instead.  It’s better for your health’.

 

jpm

37. Japan

37. Japan

There is a quiet in Japan.

Perhaps the quietness is a way of coping
with the truth of living with 127 million neighbours
on a postage stamp of land.

And every now and then, a sudden revolt:
devastating earthquakes,
horrifying tsunamis. 

As if the land itself were protesting its burden.

 

jpm

36. Thailand (Chiang Mai)

Our noses wrinkle in disgust at the pong of the returning hill-trekkers, reeking with a week’s unwashed grime.  

Happily, we are entirely oblivious to our own odorous stink a week later at journey’s end.

Until I spy the comically familiar expressions of the next group waiting expectantly for our return.

 

jpm

35. Fiji (Suva Airport)

The ultimate test of self-esteem, surely, is being weighed along with your luggage at the airline check-in for the tiny island hopper.  The dubious eyes of the clerk size you up and tally your aggregate heft, eyebrows raised.

A momentary dread: will it be you or the goat off-loaded today?

 

jpm

34. Austria

34. Austria

Clickety Clack

Orderly Austria flashes past.
Suffocatingly precise.

Oh for some fresh air.

I pry a reluctant window open just a fraction.
In an apparently personal affront to the severe man glaring at me from afar.
Who storms thunderously through the carriage to slam it shut in my face.

Twice.

 

jpm

33. Hungary (Budapest, 1990)

Rubbery, flubbery, lubbery bellies
Peeking through the clouds of steam in immodest abandon.
It’s Women’s Tuesday in the Rudas Baths,
Nestled at the foot of the castle.

And ruddy-faced, barrel-shaped matrons pass gossip and time in the public baths
as they always have.
An hour’s respite from their daily cares.

 

jpm
(posted from Waiheke Island, New Zealand)

Košice Town Square.
Safety pinned and superglued,
the sneering punk sprawls his scrawny self beside me on the bench,
radiating a loose-limbed exuberance
at odds with his steel capped boots.
An outpost of desperate wannabe anarchy
amidst Cold War Communist conformism.
Thirsting for my corrupting tales of the Wicked West.

jpm

31. Spain (Barcelona, 2007)

Today I stop and stare and climb within the fantastical spirals of the Sagrada Familia.
The passion of a crooked man,
building his twisted confections and crippled buttresses,
venerating his God.
Reaching beyond a mortal lifetime,
the loving hands of his disciples raise Gaudi’s utopian vision to grasp Catalan skies.

jpm

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