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Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Art by Kate Ma

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.

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