Poetry: The Operation | clivejames.com
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The Operation

Becoming the person you have always been
inside cannot be rushed. For some the dressing up
in secret clothes at home — batiks and silks,
caftans, sarongs — is all they ever need.
For others, food comes next: vaguely Asian takeaway
in confidential brown paper bags. Only the brave
come out in public: sitting in shop-front restaurants
proudly becoming what they eat, stir-fry and rice,
and more rice, in small civilised portions. Wherever,
you must use only chopsticks, or the washed right hand
alone, and rise always from the floor still hungry,
feeling smaller already, and daintier, and more refined.
Soon the hormone shots will darken the skin.
Submit to these procedures first: the chest-waxing,
the lid-narrowing. And the nose-job, of course:
you are leaving Big-Nose Europe behind.
There can be no turning back; you are ready now
for The Operation. A foot of flesh, at least, must go: the whole
high pulpit of European condescension. Of course not everything
is height: you must learn again to look up, not down.
Courses should be taken in History and Language, in Chief Exports
and Rainfall and especially Climate: stirred by the wings
of strange, bright butterflies the monsoons are moving closer;
already the summers feel wetter, the winters hotter.
There is pain, of course, but there is also peace: a happiness
oddly free of itself, free of shag-haired Europe
and its doggy emotions. Dogs are for eating now,
with the careful, inscrutable manners of a cat.
Suddenly the bandages are off, and everything can be seen.
The world has gone as quiet as a Public Library.
Meditate for a time in the open sun, safe from zinc
and freckles, the last ice melting from your heart,
the brooding indoor races of the north at last forgotten.