tagNon-Erotic PoetryXining, China

Xining, China


Close your eyes.
Sounds like home, honking, clanging,
The dull hum of a million voices.
Smells like home, exhaust,
Food frying, smoking rancid grease.
Too many unbathed people.
Lick lips.
Tastes like...nowhere else.
It's even in the air. Bitter.
The air is thick and gray.
Visceral industrial waste.
Like old Bethlehem.
Open your eyes now and look.
Too crowded streets.
Trolleys. Buses. Too many cars.
Roads. Trains. Bridges. Skyscrapers.
Murals painted on endless concrete villages.
Mosques and temples and cathedrals
Side by side. But not.
Golden arches. Here too?
Many, many people.
Suits. Fashionable shoes. Hand-painted silk ties.
Fine dresses. Leather handbags.
Designer? Maybe.
Maybe not. Maybe made here.
Impossible to tell.
Beyond the skyline, mountains in all directions,
Shrouded in gray-brown air.
Smokestacks above miles of buildings
Making toys for American boys,
Fashions for American girls.
Blazing nights, awash with neon,
Blaring nightclubs, pounding music,
Carny barkers hawking American names.
New York Subway, Manhattan Transfer,
Gold Rush Club, Chicago Midway.
Women wait on every corner.
Scantily-clad, young but haggard.
Amid the hustle, bustle,
Children run with my every step.
When I stop, kneel at my feet
Gazing up with sad brown eyes,
Looking for, hoping for, yuan.
An apple? A banana? he pleads.
Looking at my shoes, A shine?
Speaking barely familiar words.
A puck? she offers, getting the word wrong.
You got money? I got time. Quick puck?
Broken English. But English.
Even the children.
Not the place of newsreels.
Different here, the real country.
Not what the leaders want America to see.
Fueled by American dollars,
The sleeping giant has awakened.

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