Three Poems









The Settlement 


There, at the Portuguese Settlement, 

after being told by the restaurant owner’s wife 

that their Chinese shrine was dedicated 

not to the usual gods, but to two brothers, 

spirits from the nearby islands, and, 

being Roman Catholic, that she doesn’t understand 

why someone could be possessed there, 

by the spirits there, right there, at the shrine 

in the half of the restaurant that’s vacant, 

open to the patio, after that we entered De Mello’s, the village bar, 

its walls hung with crests of those Lusitanian noble clans 

that landed and conquered, their men marrying locals, 

hung with scarves of Benfica and Porto, those football tribes. 

And there in a corner is a yellowing newspaper cutting 

about Andrew’s country-and-western band, 

famous in Penang in the nineties, Andrew who objects 

to his mother-tongue being called Kristang: ‘It’s Malaccan Portuguese! 

I can speak with anyone who comes here from Lisbon, 

and they will understand. Even the former President of Portugal, 

now Secretary General of the UN. He was in my bar 

and we spoke together.’ Andrew de Mello, who years ago 

was notorious for sometimes dressing as a Sioux chieftain 

and who is now in red vest and matching jeans, 

his rockers’ haircut seventies-style. Face lit by 

his laptop screen, he’s crooning obscure ballads 

to a poppy backing-track, being timeless, Portuguese, 

and at home. 


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