“Over a century old” proclaimed the sign over the bar.
The Tamil barman's charcoal hands move with a grace
that their largeness belies
as he prepares a tray of drinks for some Chinese customers
sitting in the shade of the conical, thatched roof
which the Malays call atap.
Was this once a comfortable refuge of the Raj,
rubber planters rubbing shoulders with
East India Company office johnnies,
all pukka sahib under their pith helmets
listening to the soothing chink
of ice cubes in their Singapore Slings?
No one will give me its history. Unsure or unwilling?
History for them starts with Merdeka, independence.
A lot of pink has disappeared from the world map now
and soon Australia will have its Merdeka,
a day when we admit our ties with Asia
are stronger than the weak sunset of European empires.
I swim in the concrete-sided pool, but feel
the soft mud and sand of the Malacca Straits
ooze between my toes.
Surrounded by smiling Chinese faces, I glide
through the muddy sea water, secretly holding out hope
in the new world we are creating.