Magpie in Tiananmen Square

I look around
it doesn’t feel that long ago,

eighteen years on and still
the portrait eyes of Mao
shine on the distance
surrounded by the khaki
of his republic grandsons

above a lonely aviator
the magpie
commands the surly air
at 9am

it swoops above amongst the cloth-kites
secured with twine
to the tinkering fingers of young girls
on those cold, grey slabs
imbibed with tank oil
and the blood of countless sons

Like a pendulum over our heads
the magpie arcs and glides
He settles on the obelisk, solus
a hero of the people
the one for sorrow, bird of joy
He is today’s unknown rebel,
surrounded by wan marbles
and dim concrete

I feel the Guide tap my shoulder
and he offers the smallest knowing smile,
as much as he’s allowed to give

“No bad omen in China” he assures me
“Here the magpie is lucky”

I look around
it doesn’t feel that long ago,

Then he lifts up the red flag
a signal to us
To keep moving on
in line.

Ben Barton

If you've any comments on this poem,  Ben Barton would be pleased to hear from you.

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