Adam Aitken




Ode to Astroboy


You grew out of them, the scrapped cities,

the early hours of nuclear dawn.

Light and time are all your now, burning off the mist.

You hear a bird’s sudden whistle,

look up at the steel cathedral and see nothing.

Look up again. An Indian Minah, most adaptable,

perched over a check-in counter

hones its beak on a crossbeam.

Your coffee’s long cold, but the coffee machines

just get cheaper. An ex-head of state you tried to save

goes to house arrest (again),

her motorcade gridlocked in the dawn

of a new city, the tenth this week.

Everywhere is dawn, anytime is dawn, dawn is hope

and here they say there’s plenty going round.

The dream-flight to Taipei’s cancelled, like

independence. Still, you ‘fall in love’ with China

because Miss X had said you were ancient,

yes was a model, it was getting late.

You want more pirated software, you want

better airline food.

You want morning to end, and exit to the glare

and workaday wisdom of midday.


You’re Astroboy, doing your Asian thing,

so chubby faced, a little overweight, but ruthless.


And you’re still flying or sleeping off a hangover

in an airport with a laptop for a pillow –

everyone who doesn’t look like you

is doing it, just dozing off while standing at attention.

The city rushes down escalators and stumbles onto planes.

Fast city, world’s longest escalator.

A girl in black with a slip of lace showing,

a young screen jockey with dripping gelled hair.

The Aussies are happy, going home or nowhere.

Can you smell it, ‘global’ readership?

Re-invent yourself as a solar vacuum cleaner.

Eat more noodles. Kiss babies.

Dress like Aussies dress – children at a fete.

Harassed, impatient, stuck on first base.

We could ask the Americans, embrace millions,

from the very shabby to the acutely manicured.

Harassed at home or abroad, money worry.

The elderly browsing still like its archery,

egrets eyeing up a bargain.

No more Wordsworth’s sheep or

optimistic childhood imagery:

Little Dorrits winning the lottery.


You were ahead of the game

before the game changed.

You’re luckier, always faster and lighter

on your feet, which were rockets.

powered by opaque prosperity. Still

so many mornings to go,

so many, and your Blackberry says

10:32, 18 degrees, clear day

over Tokyo, weekly outlook

fine and getting finer.

Bend with the wind, spread your riches

to the four corners.




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