• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 12

You Can’t Outrun Squally Rain

Outside a fisherman ties his dingy to the dock.
He runs for shelter below a lean-to sheet of plastic,
as if a person can outrun squally rain. Nothing
compares, being chased by a tropical maelstrom.

I've sheltered in a cafe with plastic chairs and tables.
I glance up at the waitress who sets a sweating bottle
of beer on the table. She asks if I’m ready to order.
Salt and pepper shrimp, a vegetable. M' goi, I say.

The rain beats against the awning and pours down
on to the wooden dock below. The fisherman waits.
No rush — this is Lana Island. None are in a hurry here.
Time keeps its own speed in China.

When I was young, and my soul was still half empty,
I let the world fill me. The world was my home.
Wherever I went, whatever I saw, each place left a bit
of itself in my soul. And I left a bit of myself behind, too.
A kindness for kindness. Memories for memories.

Like the heat of Singapore as I walked across the old
iron bridge. Dazed, I thought I heard footfall behind me.
A curse, equatorial heat. It scorched my neck, my arms.
No fan would cool me, no cold drink resolved my thirst.

I once stood at the base of a glacier. Listened to its
white ancient mass groan and snap, it shattered the air
with a landslide. I remember my feet begging me to run —
but my legs refused. I learnt what it meant to freeze.


You Can’t Outrun Squally Rain

I suppose I left my unwilling legs at that glacier.
Left that scorching sting on my arms in Singapore.
I smile at the thought, pour glacial cold beer into a glass —
and peeled the shell from another shrimp.

The rain poured down for another few hours. It kept
the fisherman sat under the plastic tarpaulin, his legs
tucked and folded beneath him, and I continued to peel
shrimp and suck the sauce off the shells that piled up
high and statuesque on the plate.

I once thought that the world was my home.
It’s not though; the world is a museum.