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This poem is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

Three Poems Ellie Evans


Trip of a Lifetime

I have been given a book of vouchers, to use during my stay. I've got choices
and can use the tickets for cultural activities, entertainments,
restaurants and getting about. There is, however, a caveat: they must all
be used up by the final date on the last page, which - unfortunately - I don't
have; it seems to be missing, I don't know why, but I'll find out at the end.

I was so eager to get started, I pulled off a green retail ticket and bought
a pink cotton souvenir T-shirt, with the logo. So now it shows I've been here.
Because I was new, I was careful with my coupons, timid about exploring
the twisting, high-walled alleys where I could see, through carved gates, courtyards with hibiscus,
smell shrimp-oil frying, hear the cooks chopping leaves, or the clink and snap of mah-jong tiles.

But still I couldn't read the timetables in their dusty frames; the elevator
where I stayed, in its black frame and wire sides, looked unsafe; its ropes swung like monkeys' tails.
I tried to get to know the culture, learn the language; my feet tapped on the parquet
in deserted galleries as the dust shimmered and the blinds flapped and the guards dozed
beside unlabelled curves of marble; the postcards in their racks were faded and curled.
...


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