In the Pleasure Quarter


Being foreign is the democracy that allows the Nigerian,
in all the accoutrements of a gangsta, to address me as brother

and offer a special discount to a nice place where the girls are all foreign
– Russian, Brazilian, Australian – and all speak English.

We are, perversely, brothers: of the same continent,
slave and master, ear and mouth,

in the weird dialectic of Shinjuku, this thoroughfare
where crowds blur into clouds.

What tradewinds brought him here? and those girls? and me?

Our common tongue is illusory, necessary, a kind of coin
minted by being stamped on.




John Mateer

Author: John Mateer

John Mateer has published books of poems in Australia, Portugal, Austria and the UK, as well as booklets that have appeared in Johannesburg, Kyoto, Macau and elsewhere. The latest of his books are Emptiness: Asian Poems 1998-2012 and Unbelievers, or 'The Moor'. Over the course of two decades he has read his work in many countries. Forthcoming is a German translation of his book The West: Australian Poems 1989-2009 and a Portuguese translation of Unbelievers, or 'The Moor'. Early in 2015 The Quiet Slave: an History in Eight Episodes, his year-long collaboration with the Malay communities of the Cocos-Keeling islands and the town of Katanning, will be exhibited as part of SPACED2: Future Recall.