The umbrella men

by Joshua Ip

 

the umbrella men are blooming in

the season of rain. they grow in the shade 

like magic mushrooms, unlooked-for and uncultured.

they blossom like gunshot wounds

across the circulation of a city.

 

the umbrella men sprout tents, a commotion

of cauliflowers in a well-tended garden.

they neatly unpack their picnic baskets. in the night-cold

they ignite their hotpots. in the dreary morning they unfold

their ping-pong tables. in the heat of mid afternoon

they sunbathe on concrete islands.

 

the umbrella men are helping each other

with their homework. they are reciting

rote essays in a foreign tongue. after this is over

they will skew college quotas all over the west

with variants on one remarkable admissions essay

painted in neon over one city street.

 

the umbrella men have the resilience of smartphones

the smartest of whom last barely a day,

but their charging cables are hydra

in this many-headed metropolis they are always plugged into,

they pulsate with their openings and closings

and the thrill of their vanes,

for the occupation of an umbrella man

is shelter and shellacking both.

 

the umbrella men are blowing blank speech bubbles in the wind.

they are singing anthems from dead rockers and live lyricists

amidst the silence of the lamborghinis.

they are falling off the world stage head first

and the sea is wide, the sky is empty. 

 

 

the umbrella men are sheltering their guards and jailers

in the penumbra of their smiles.

they hide their fear of a harsher gaze.

after all they are only reflectors and diffusers,

lampshades to direct and shape their own smouldering

where elsewhere the umbrella men are being burnt

in effigy by a billion people

each one a personal solar eclipse, a blot on a

national brilliance.

 

the umbrella men are linking arms;

they raise their shield formation like Spartans, Athenians;

they have lived in the shade for too long to know the sun

always rises. 

 

the umbrella men are falling like parachutes, 

like dandelion seeds;

they are turning in place like bamboo dragonflies;

each revolution a rising, the spinning of palms together –

 

the umbrella men are blown inside out

and borne away on the monsoon rain.

they gust and gasp as the wind crumples them;

they are higher than they planned for; they are flying through turbulence;

they are hanging from the gibbets of their 

stretchers and runners; so fragrant and fleeting the harbouring of hope.

they swing from their own rope

in the sky which is peace which is also a door.

in the haze of this city we can pretend not to see them fall.

 

From Griffith REVIEW Edition 49: New Asia Now © Copyright Griffith University & the author.