Thursday, July 9, 2009

A slice of "real" China

Pictures taken on Monday, July 6, near the Bagou subway stop, which is the last stop on the West side of Line 10.

Imitation Jade

NBA player Brook Lopez, when asked
on his second day in China what he'd seen,
replied he had not had time to see much
he had been escorted into the hutongs of the real China --
To see real China, he said with a crooked grin
as if to imply something,
the essence or point of which
escaped him -- and I could tell he thought
what every high-status visitor thinks,
that there is a fake China
beyond the Badaling section of the Great Wall
and the fresh lead paint over Tiananmen's red cracks,
beyond the fakeness of, say, Silk Street,
which specializes in fake,
and the fakeness of imitation jade sold atop sky bridges because
they are so obviously fake that if you asked the vendor
he would smile, crooked perhaps,
and say as much, adding
in his own special, unspoken way,
Skyscrapers, supersized malls, spirals of concrete: fake fake fake
fake --

As I pee into a trough near the Bagou subway stop, making sure
to aim against the wall so as to not
drench my toes in sprayage,
what is fake about this, about the clotheslines on which starched cotton
socks bake till they're cardboard crisp, the men
plastering a nearby building, two women watching,
the spade cutting back and forth across the charcoal clay,
what is fake about this, I think,
is what is fake about you and I, about
our motivations to keep our motors turning
and our lives running,
about history, which has already written the future,
indeed, about the future itself,

the lies we must tell because they are our tickets to arrive there
even as we drive ourselves to look towards past lives of dirt and dust
and clay
and call that real --

pissing, cleaning, grinding out
life one day at a time, one freshly washed,
lined and dried
collar-stretched shirt at a time, wanting nothing
but life.

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