‘City Lights: San Francisco’

City Lights: San Francisco

For H. Tamvakeras

I was reading a poem in that upstairs sunlit room
when I looked up and thought I saw you, Harry,
standing beside the window across from the apartment
where laundry hung outside like a fireman’s ladder snaking

down the brickwork. The man had your narrow shoulders,
the same frail back, your steel-grey hair. His head was covered
by a baseball cap. He was missing your glasses. It’s not
the first time I’ve seen your ghost around books –

in that Sydney apartment up for sale, where shelves
spilled into each room, crammed full of cookbooks,
histories and biographies, I’d thought it was you
smiling in the photographs. You’d fit right into

this windy city. You’d meet with the philosophers
on Wednesday nights, shop the farmers’ markets
on weekends, hold court in the downtown bars
over glasses of ouzo. You would shrug on 

your cracked leather jacket before winding your way
home up the hills, some steep as the hills of Lesbos.
The city lights shiver like so many eyes
before they close up against the darkness of the night.

Eileen Chong

Eileen Chong


Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet who was born in Singapore. She has lived in Australia since 2007. She completed a Masters in Letters at Sydney University under the tutelage of Judith Beveridge. She won the Poets Union Youth Fellowship in 2010 and was the Australian Poetry Fellow for 2011–12. She was also a recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Scholarship and commenced a Doctorate in Creative Arts at the University of Western Sydney, but discontinued her studies after two years. Her first collection of poetry, Burning Rice, was published in 2012 and was runner-up in the Anne Elder Award 2012, highly commended in the Australian Arts in Asia Award 2013, and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2013. Her second collection of poems is Peony, published by Pitt Street Poetry in 2014. In 2014 two of Chong’s poems were shortlisted for the Secondbite Food Poetry Competition, with one poem winning a runner-up prize, and another poem longlisted for the University of Canberra's Vice-Chancellor’s Award.




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