Child Born in Guangzhou

One Child Born in Guangzhou


Between Tianhe and Dongpu

off the side of the main road

where what was once a river

lies the hospital.

Semi-tropical here, so walls

don’t go all the way up.

Stench from the once river

grey sludge over coke cans

thrown away instant noodle boxes

and some growth that once tried to be green

seeps through the heavy heavy air.


It is three concrete stairs

to maternity, the top floor

stairs open to a long corridor

greyly shining wet.

Water from the wallside tap

weeps continually over the cracks

in the concrete.

All the wards here have two beds

chinese beds like boards

sheeted with thin cotton duvet.


Ward walls open to the washroom

and that ubiquitous hole in the floor.

Clean clear water running.

One bed for a patient, another

for whoever has brought in

soup, magazines, hairbrushes, and,

of course, the ricebox

before lying down in the heat

their sweat running to join

the humid drops already drowning

what is left of air.


Hands grow more slippery,

the soup can more precarious

On every stair.

Reach the door, and then,

Her black chinese hair is long

and wet with its own shine

It falls across her sweat wet

shoulder to an exhausted arm.

Hair, eyes, arm, body, all cradling,

Holding her one, her will be only,

hot wet newborn son.



Written in 2008, and is another of my misunderstandings of what happens here. The parents of this child, relatives of my in-law chinese family are reasonably well off, and self-employed, so they accept the financial sanctions and have since had a second son. One law for the rich… etc. … alive and well in modern China.


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