Visits In Beijing - Poem by Frank Bana
The buildings are stacked for miles in rows along the wide main street
All new, erected in the last five or ten years. It must have been a frenzy
Under grey skies heavy with pollution or mist or fog we pass Tiananmen Square
And reach a cultural centre carpeted in red with dragon clocks and chandeliers
I acquire the gift of a rolled silk tapestry, a huge name tag in English and Mandarin, and then a guide and an interpreter to direct me to my place, to where
at every moment
The plan calls for me to be. I sit, my capped bone china cup of tea is filled
And as I sip, topped up again. My turn comes in the playlist, my microphone switched on for me
I deliver speech, then off we go for group photo, every seat pre-prepared with a name tag attached
Over coffee and sweet bean cakes I engage the student girls who guide and interpret, their real concern
Is for my viewing of historical sites, for advance of cooperation and the march of social harmony.
Apartment blocks emerging from the heavy haze
Ever more Ring Roads as migrants swell the city
Cars replace bicycles over the years
On the way to visit the Great Wall
At Bada Ling, snowfall around the feet.
I am freezing up high in the early morning!
We were the first, before the daily groups of students came.
Climbed down gingerly, got inside. Ordered cabbage, beancurd and noodle soup.
Five women gathered round to watch me eat. My local guide
Waited... until we found a KFC.
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