Beijing Ascending by Graham Wood


Beijing Ascending
by Graham Wood

For Rosemary and Laura

We spent all day getting to the top of things —
climbing stairs, hauling on balustrades
lifting our aching legs
up one incline and then another:
the pagoda
the drum tower
the bell tower
the emperor’s favourite resting place
on top of the wooded mountain …
So that, by the end of the day
with dusk descending, exhausted
we realised too late that though we’d climbed
the tourist climbs and come down again
in one mad skelter, we’d failed completely
to get to the bottom of anything at all.

© Graham Wood

PHOTO: The Great Wall of China. Photo by panayota, used by permission.

NOTE: The Great Wall of China is the collective name of a series of fortification systems  built across the historical northern borders of China to protect and consolidate territories of Chinese states and empires against various nomadic groups. Several walls were built from as early as the 7th century BC, and sections were later joined by Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), the first emperor of China. Many successive dynasties built and maintained multiple stretches of border walls. The most well-known sections of the wall were built by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The wall is about 45 miles north of Beijing, the capital of China and the world’s most populous city, with 21 million residents.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written in Beijing during a family trip to China some years ago. On our final day, we spent a very interesting but exhausting time visiting as many as possible of the remaining sites on our list. In the preceding days, our sightseeing had included two separate sections of the Great Wall, one less well-preserved, less often visited and even more interesting than the other. Many of the sites involved a considerable number of stairs and an exhausting amount of climbing …


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Graham Wood lives in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and has worked in a variety of occupations. These include high school teacher, film classifier, and public servant, the latter mainly in the field of higher education policy and planning. His poems have been published in a range of Australian and international journals and anthologies, including WesterlyfourW, and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, and Silver Birch Press and Vita Brevis Press in the USA. He is a member of the North Shore Poetry Project in Sydney.

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