Category Archives: Verse


Seasonal verse

Following from a discussion on Twitter.

Spring’s Herald
A milky grey of soot and sand,
winter-wind-whipped ’cross the land,
is shooting through the hutongs bare,
with chill, with spit, with spite.

For many months we’ve faced the gloom:
The dead tree-branches over-loom
the frozen streets where burning coal
provides the only light.

But Lo! What’s this that peeks from ’neath
the steering wheel, casts off its sheath
of winter, and presents a glimpse
of warmth, of life’s rebirth?

O cabbie’s leg, to thee I sing!
With trousers fresh rolled up for spring,
your coming heralds winter’s end,
and sunny warmth, and mirth!

The trees, restored, now filled with song!
The children gaily dance along
the lazy, willowed Houhai banks,
as innocent as lambs.

So take your robins and your flow’rs;
in winter I just count the hours
’til cracking skin gives way to sights
of cabbies’ pasty jambs.



On Yan’an Lu

My bike requires repairs. I have been taking too many taxis.

To a Shanghai taxi
O coach of völkisch birth, to you I plead:
Your pilot’s callused hands and leaden hooves
beget in me a dread of mortal speed;
The windshield glass, so stained with soot, removes
the sense of life and depth that sight improves.
With nought betwixt us and the soul ahead
he now with hellish tarantism moves
and hurtles us through countless signals red;

I pray, Santana: slow, ere we meet with the dead.


Archives, Verse


Having been using the same version of WordPress for five years, I figured it was time for a change. I don’t expect that upgrading to the latest version will have much of an impact on my posting schedule (averaging, it seems, about one post every 13 months), but at least it should make it less annoying to write new entries.

What you see here is an attempt to update my old design by editing WordPress’s Twenty Ten theme. It may change over the coming days and months, or it may not. I’ve also added a new category called “Verse,” since poetry appears—quite unexpectedly—to be an increasingly large part of this blog.

On coming third at a pub quiz
But Yea—
Is glory in the noble third,
or sorrow, or despair? Glowing
bronze gleams bright.

Less the Word
of the Triune God, all-knowing,
no genesis. The empty night.




The post office has not delivered my mail in approximately five months.





A bonnie lad

Kim Il-sungThis Friday will mark one month after the 97th birthday of Kim Il-sung, which is a good enough excuse for me to post something that’s been sitting on my computer for some time.

It is an ode to Kim Il-sung written in the style of Robert Burns, with apologies in advance for any true speakers of Scots. I’ll admit I can’t remember the precise reason that I decided to compose such an ode, but here it is.

For those readers who may be unfamiliar with the hagiography of the DPRK, here is some background information:

The poem refers to the log cabin on Mt. Paektu, the place of the mythical origin of the Korean people, in which Kim Jong-il had his equally mythical birth. That birth, on February 16, 1942, is said to have been accompanied by a double rainbow and the appearance of a new star in the sky. The cabin stands today and is something of destination for pilgrims in the DPRK — it’s also filled with numerological significance, including being 216 meters (as in 02/16) from the base of a nearby cliff.

Juche is the principle of self-reliance that is the foundation of North Korean ideology. Arirang is the name of a famous Korean song, sometimes sung as an ode to reunification, and has also been used as the name of the Mass Games held in Pyongyang.

And now, the poem:

On seeing his cabin on Mt. Paektu
Abune a cauld and mirky brae,
o’ Paektu’s snaw, aneath the skies,
whar Kim Jong-il th’ bairn is frae,
a cozie, hamely haddin’ lies.

It hears at dawe the birdie’s sang,
tha’ echoes ben the gracefu’ morn.
Sae hinny as he flees amang,
Th’ pine, th’ larch, th’ spruce
– th’ thorn.

O haddin’! Bigg’t by daddie Kim!
Frae timmer made: Ye stand sae straught!
Me heart’s astir wi’ thoughts o’ him,
Wha me to grit Pyongyang hae brought.

But now, waesacks! His banes gae stiff!
An’ cauld as airn; He’s here nae more!
I’m wearie, fill’t with dool an’ grief!
Me fiere, me daddie’s, left the shore!

O! Kim Il-sung, I’m fidgin-fain
For ye! An’ though ye’ve now passed on,
I’ll see your haddin’ when ye’re gaen,
And ken tha’ Juche isna faun.

And sae, thegither, teuhgly stan’
a-fiel’! We, wi’ blithe spirits all!
For bonnie is the Arirang,
O! Kim Il-sung! We hear your call!