Madeleine's latest book delicate access (2004), which these poems have been taken from,
includes an exhibition of photographs and recordings ( She has
previously written the books China - The Dragon Awakes (1995), Children in China (1997),
the award-winning Round - Poems and Photographs of Asia (1998) and colo(u)r (2003), and
she has exhibited her photographs internationally. Her poetry has been translated into Chinese
and German. Raised mostly in Maine (USA), she lived in Hong Kong since 1988.

(4 poems from delicate access)

The Last Memory

The dent
in the carpet
after I move the couch

The yellowed square on the wall
where our slow calendar

Mica tape marks
The gouge of missing nails
Scraped floor

The dry bathroom sink
has a crack
It is not your black hair

The Pearl River

The bridge fainted today. Smog as cold as a riverside marble lobby and the three elevators, mirrored, that run up each nouveau tower. Winter swimming pools are silent.

Tonight, the City will shine green neon onto promenade trees in case the leaves also faint, and a strip of blue along the River. The training of the great nature return.

Skirted women will stand at the door of each restaurant while jacketed men amble, manhood alerted, the cigarette a buoy.

We will choose one cafe where windows open to haze. Look, an unfinished mass sheeted with scaffolding nets and metal ledges: a certain river-view pagoda.

We remember when the complex with pointed green roofs was built. Everyone saw the picture complete, ready for someone to swoop into the gift-lit City, buy it all up, and love it for a while.


Oversized banana leaves have been cracking for centuries while the top of white orchid trees lush their hips, and just one petal can make the night drunk to sweet fanned frangipani branches tipped with twisted button blossoms opening it all up. The willow stays the neurotic sibling, with a frazzled head, then uncombed arms, swaying dead tails or maybe just bad poetry, while palm trees huddle fainted fins like a wardrobe of hoarded skirts and leaning mangrove go anemic, expose bony ankles over low water, and someone asks, which is straighter: eucalyptus telephone poles or flame trees with red falling hands that thud? Cypress, Miss Cypress, you are the fine grace you must want yourself to be, the way you craft your shape with care, such proper care, like the mirage of the creosote bleeding across a desert while thick citrus leaves shine waxy around fruit of chosen color. Still, a soft kind of pine grows braids of needles and a night wind undresses through trees.


We don't need to color the orange orange and lemons don't grow sideways, but do plums all have the same kind of bellybutton because every rambutan has eyelashes that want wilderness delicious, delicious us apple, turn us red and gold all over grape vines, grape veins, is there any fruit that doesn't get twisted, pesticided, their pickers picked out of profits? One, two cherries ring as they swing while big-bottomed pears sit like fat Chinese gods or are they Party cadres. We all know pollywogs wallow in their papaya boat and jackfruit lump along the trunk like a tumor to be cut off, but what does so much watermelon red open, for to pry a pomelo head apart in the middle of autumn's rebellion reminds us that there is still some sweet justice left: we must eat it to make more.

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