Three poems

Field Observations

after Liu Chuang’s Bitcoin Mining and Field
Recordings of Ethnic Minorities (2018)



The spinning wheels glow neon-green. Water

released from the mouth of the dam roars over

the bolted edge into the reservoir. We mine energy;


we disconnect from the pod and emerge, newborn

and knowing. Time hurtles down dimly lit corridors,

a cat’s ears rotate unthinkingly to the origin of sound.


Strings of copper cash now worthless. People rush to exchange

them for trays of rotting persimmons. Melt metal in the furnace,

cast copper into a series of hanging bells. The King struck one:


its thin reverberations blurred the air, travelled up his hand into

his body, and stopped his heart. A mountain woman sings songs

of her ancestors into the mouthpiece of a computer held in one hand.


We hear music, and coloured bulbs light up in tandem. A white man

stalks a black crowd; he collects their cadences for an ivory grave.

Telegraph wires divide whole forests; they cannot bear our human weight.




I also am a daughter of the colony.

I share their broken speech, their other-whereness.

    – “Colony”, Eavan Boland


You laugh at my speech.

Even my name is wrong.

My tongue will not bend.

I cannot read these titles;

I do not speak these words.


I wake myself in the dark, talking.

I stand in the garden, facing the sea.

The north wind tugs at the wet fabric

in my hands. I peg it firmly:

the shirt is a trapped, white flag.


If an ancestor had continued south,

what then? A market garden, goldfields,

a laundry, the family restaurant. Not this

bloodless mining of words, this stymied pen.




Every smallest thing is too much for me.

     – Monica Jones, in a letter to Philip Larkin


The roast in the oven grown cold

The empty bed


Her hair on your coat

No letters for weeks


Rain all day

The garden near drowned


The lost cat

Its collar worn through


A broken glass

Wine on the carpet


The mirror last night

Pages of a book


I build a fire

Your handwriting collapses


The gate fallen off its hinges

A rusted latch 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jan 30, 2021 as "Three poems".

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Eileen Chong is an award-winning poet and the author of eight books. Her next collection, A Thousand Crimson Blooms, will be published by UQP in April 2021.

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