Weekend Poetry: World's Tallest Building (Cancelled)

World’s Tallest Building (Cancelled)
What do you call the world’s tallest building if it’s never built? A fish farm. That’s what the
locals of Changsha did with the foundation pits of Sky City, a planned 220-storey wetland-
devouring monster, after the project was put on ice. ‘You can eat fish, and you cannot eat a
glass-and-steel skyscraper, so let us praise fish,’ said the locals. ‘You can see through glass, and
you cannot see through a fish, so let us praise the glass-and-steel skyscraper,’ said the
architects. ‘You can shelter wetland birds in a wetland, and you cannot shelter wetland birds in
a glass-and-steel skyscraper, so let us praise the wetland,’ said the environmental advocacy
organisation. ‘You can choke on a fishbone. You can fly into a glass-and-steel skyscraper. You
can drown in a wetland,’ said a wetland bird. ‘Therefore let us praise danger and the certainty
of it, which makes my fish savour of opportunity and makes the tall grasses in my home whistle
with barely concealed menace.

News from Abroad
A postcard from the fiery pits of hell inscribed: ‘Wish you were here!’ We’re not having a
holiday this year. We’re saving up to say we’re saving up for next year. The annoying thing
about travelling is being different. The annoying thing about coming home is being the same. I
meet tourists and trippers and vacationers and travelpreneurs, but when was the last time I met a
‘wanderer’? You know, a holy nomad who strikes a staff into the parched earth, whereupon
instantly grows a dazzling, fragrant vine? I fear I’m not looking in the right places. Which
reminds me of that old Zen kōan: how many years of scouring the Indian Ocean does it take to
know that you can’t locate a plane? The answer is silence.

Market-Optimised Problem Solving
A Mexican standoff, but with love. Character 1 is in love with Character 2, who is in love with
Character 3, who is in love with Character 1. We’ve asked some economists what to do about
this, and they’ve come up with the most rational strategy: Character 3 should exchange loves
with Character 2, so Characters 1 and 2 love each other and Character 3 loves him or herself.
On the whiteboard in the conference room the symbols and appear, doing their important
work, illustrating the balance of trade. The economists are done now, so we’ve asked them
privately if love really works like this. To quote the most representative answers: ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’
‘Yes,’ and ‘The great unsentimental trading nations, from the Phoenicians to the Aksumites to
the Dutch, have lived the principles we’ve explained, and I don’t see why they would apply to
any other place any less. So yes.’

On His Being Arrived to the Age of Thirty-Six

‘At least it’s a horrible day for it,’ Meredith says, looking out at the murk, mindful of my dislike
of my birthday. I ring first thing to have my sprained knee looked at. I totter on it like a
newborn zebra. Now that makes me feel young. How soon hath time, the subtle thief of youth,
stolen on his wing an hour at the doctor’s. The card from my parents has arrived. On it,
apparently representing me, who was ‘born an original’, is a hoary old jazzman with a homburg
and taffy pink socks. I make a note to ask them if they’ve ever met me. Fish and chips in
Lyttelton is the tradition, so that’s the plan. I want to stick candles in it to intimidate the lurking
gulls, as the early fire-wielders did on their birthdays. You can see the future of the world when
you look into a screaking seagull’s face. I wear a new shirt and an elasticated stocking layered
into a brace.



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