Black and white photograph of a window in the foreground and the view of industrial buildings in outside of the window.

Luke Ching, Window (Day 2): Room 118, Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock, Regent Road, Liverpool, 2017. Photography © Rob Battersby. © Luke Ching.

Gazing Within/Without by Charlotte Robson

The following two poems by Charlotte Robson were written in response to Window (Day 2): Room 118, Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock, Regent Road, Liverpool (2017) – a photograph taken by the Hong Kong-based artist Luke Ching, held within our Art Collection. The poems were written for the Fourdriner to coincide with the work being shown as part of the Taking the Leap at PHOTOFAIRS – Shanghai (20 – 22 September 2019).

Lì wù pǔ

[Key s-words: Shanghai, sea, seafarer]

Seagull spires – not pictured – must’ve
sung the port’s tune, rallying
the unseen.


Stilled waters, running deep, a
city’s harmonies

Seeded So(o) long ago, twin veins
trickle, trailing
unfamiliar lifelines;

spider silk webs tracing transient(?)

Stories untold,
paper traps screen
dragon memories.

Shànghǎi Fǎ Zūjiè

On my penultimate day in Shanghai
I gently strayed down memory lanes,
searching for everything
I knew I shouldn’t
(as an educated woman).
That old book smell,
more fragrant in the summer humidity,
drawing me (and my entangled blood)
down dusty, peeling lùs,
timidly tailing
Ballard’s song
of faded Empire.

But those stories have left this beating womb.

Canopied arteries shading l i n g e r i n g,
shipped-in-splendour, alongside other
outmoded démodé?
remnants – chattering birdcages! – more inherent
to place than time, I peered,
dreamily, at
of life;
bright eyes
on the cusp
of new chapters.

Phoenix city of diamond towers,
it was here I thought I was to rest my wings.
Instead, you simmer on within my heart,

my journey forever changed.