I was already
descending into flu
when I boarded the flight
to Hong Kong,
familiar ache
across my shoulders,
throat raw, throbbing

Tucked in knapsack,
my scribbled greeting
card: ‘Flying halfway
round the world for our
anniversary; that’s how much … ‘
Eight years. Our first
big trip, so long anticipated

Marcus was dying
fungus conquering his lungs
and Gil so sick, wasted
body barely able to contain
his rage; my guilty
phone call from the airport
promised money

for the funeral, all
I could do over staticky
lines, the loudspeaker
garbling my flight
I dragged my baggage
to the metal hull
fifteen-hour night

Landed after sunset
of the following day
Hong Kong as fevered
as my own damp skin,
happy anniversary, your
business done, you greeted
me with duty-free perfume

Poême, because I am
a poet, a lavish dinner
I could scarcely swallow,
litany of guidebooks, plans,
all that we could see
I croaked excuses, your eyes
drowned in candlelight

Next day I trudged
with you through fetid
air in clotted
alleyways, climbed
crooked narrow stairs,
laundry flapping thirty
stories up, birds caged

on aerial balconies,
I choked thick
smoke from incense
coils wide as rope
in a red-lit temple.
You were fervid to explore,
I floated underneath

the surface as if
in a dream, drank mango
juice that stung
a swollen throat,
trolled sidewalk stalls,
my temperature soared
until at last, grudgingly

you let me sleep.
On the plane to Beijing
I coughed as if my chest
would fissure, could not
stop, face florid
sputum bloody, you turned
your grimace to the sky

Beijing airport muzak
rendered ‘Yesterday’
one note and halting, a child’s
music box wound down,
relentlessly repeated; endless
yesterday mocked us
all through customs

In that ancient city,
I stayed in our ‘deluxe’
hotel, stared through grimy
windows as streams
of cyclists rolled past,
watched Asian MTV,
B-Movies while you toured

alone the Great Wall,
the Summer Palace. Was
it here that our hands
began to unclasp?
A week before, I’d walked
Gil through the maze of AID S
bureaucracy, his voice

raw from screaming
at indifferent clerks,
his fever spiralled, spent
the last of his scant health
to fight for Marcus,
his vow, a good death.
You were furious

I’d come to China
sick, as if infection
were a trick to undermine
your yearning for
adventure. My scorched
cheeks craved your
skinflint touch

I roamed the streets,
lumbering blonde curiosity
swaddled in scarves
spewing tissues like tiny ghosts,
past vendors peddling
Marlboros, the park where
even in dead winter

barbers offer haircuts
until dark, storefronts
heaped with dusty boxes,
unrecognisable-I could
not read the signs
I counted blocks, hunted
landmarks, did not want

to lose you in this city
where I knew no language,
could not count money. Forty
dollar phone call to L.A.,
my American Chinese
doctor told me, ‘Grief’s
exploding in your lungs’

I figured it was Gil,
bereaved, and Marcus,
dead. I couldn’t read
the picture alphabet
each character a map
legible as leafless trees
on Beijing winter streets

stark as the scarlet product
of my lungs staining
a white tissue: your dark eyes
turned to distance
scanning an unknown
horizon, both of us
so far from home