Lesley Duncan: CHINAMAN (GLASGOW, 1989)

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I saw him near George, not Tiananmen, Square,

A Chinese student, taller than the norm,

Open-shirted like a fifties Socialist, Swinging a plastic poke from M and S,

And chewing on his lip.As Strathclyde buses orangely passed,

He surely thought of burnt-out versions

Slewed across Peking streets

And bandana’d camarades Demanding that impossible absolute, democracy,

Not knowing the sour compromise Of Western reality.

But was naivety, I wondered for him, Crime enough to merit massacre? Or was it simply to revenge

The old men’s loss of face

That the young ones lost theirs too, Their egghead, eggshell, skulls Smashed by their own contemporaries,

Uniformed, uninformed,

The slain detritus bulldozed into rubbish heaps?

Passing the Stockwell Bazaar, My Chinaman brooded on these things, I’m sure,

But did he rue his distance from events,

Mourn missed martyrdom?

Or did he, base but human,

Feel relief he wasn¹t tested,

And share with me,

And all the Glassford Street flaneurs, The moral luxury of safe indignation?