Updated: Dec 31, 2020
You miss it, the only city you’ve ever
known. Oriental Tower like redwood
forest, limbs crackling with unspoken
words. Try again to enter the domain
of the gods. Any moment now. You
can play Cordelia, the haloed daughter
giving up her kingdom for the price of salt.
Salt like glitter across the Huangpu,
like rubies studded on the banks. Only
fool’s gold. Call you the fool, the one
in every good Shakespeare play. In and
out and back again in this restless waltz.
Light darting around in circles over
the water— and this is what it means
to be dumbstruck and young, you
immigrant child, you in the arms
of the streets with fishbones for eyes. Eight
beads for good luck. The night gasping
under kerosene lamps of the Nanjing
vendors, and your grandfather saying
don’t get lost in the crowds.
Every vein and artery of the city thrumming
with lightning. Motion as neon signs,
as cheap silver trinkets clinking: the
Bard with his own floodlights.
Roars of sheng jian bao and ma po
dou fu and then all the crickets bursting
with flight, flight like the ghosts
you find littering the pavement. You can’t
escape the noise. Describe the difference
between ghost and banshee. The ground is
Blink and you’ll lose it.