For Michael Ryan
On distant peaks, Pagodas smile with upturned roof
As we traverse polished stairways in descent
From lofty Imperial heights,
To Californian China, of neon lights -
I have two Chinas in my mind.
One, dreaming hills in morning mist and dragons’ heads;
Temple bells and prayers of incense
Pious spirals make
Above the merchant city on the lake.
Hangzhou of silk and fragrant teas.
The other, stern blocks of light and coloured glass;
Red martyrs side by side with western fare;
And traffic does not cease
Its attempts to shatter West Lake’s mirrored peace
But fades like echoes on its shores.
Hangzhou, city of so many souls.
Rich and poor, life and death; entwined
In endless fight
New and old: both seemed poised for flight -
I have two Chinas in my mind
Geraldine Moorkens Byrne
October 20th 2006 Hangzhou, China