Three universes collide at the corner of Money and Monger streets in the centre of Perth. The moment we swing our feet from the car, the layers swirl for a moment like liquid amber leaves, then rustle to the ground: White Settlement over Whadjak Noongar Boodja with a South-East-Asian Chinese influence. The narrow streets and shophouses remind me of Malaysian Chinatowns.
We walk towards the Cash and Gold Exchange. Sam Wagan Watson, my ghosts do not rise from the bitumen like O-rings of smoke, mine step out of Jimmy Tsui’s kung-fu school on Monger St in Seven Star Praying Mantis fighting style. They are old, they are Chinese, and they are female, down to the last woman. They have dyed black permed hair, gold earrings and jade bangles, and they wear polyester pants with floral blouses. They line the sidewalk, holding their kung-fu poses. The only thing that moves is their reproachful eyes.
The world has changed, I hiss. My life won’t be like yours. We push open the brown glass door. I lay them on the bench: the 24 carat Credit Suisse gold bar pendant, the star and heart charms link bracelet, the snake pattern bracelet. Wedding and engagement presents all. The Chinese businessman looks at me. He knows what they are. It’s been twenty-four years, and I never wear them, I say. I’m taking my youngest child to California and I want some spending money. He nods as I sell my survival gold for tickets to Universal Studios.
wind curls down the street,
rustling leaves as it goes,
the stop sign – ignored.
Miriam Wei Wei Lo
Listen to Miriam reading ‘Just Before Covid-19 Hits I Sell my Gold’ (2:38).
Miriam Wei Wei Lo writes to explore beauty and to probe the gap between what is and what should be. Her poems have been included in many anthologies and in the 2019 HSC syllabus for NSW. She lives in Western Australia with her family and teaches creative writing at Sheridan College.
Note: Sam Wagan Watson, ‘tigerland’, Smoke Encrypted Whispers (UQP 2004).
© text and audio 2020