Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shanghai as A Drunken Poet

All day long Shanghai made me think of a drunken poet, reeling his bearded-head around, shaking it in the breeze, as if he knows something that I don’t. The white, wild tangles of his hair seem to say so.

It’s nighttime, and he has just finished engaging in a night of drinking and feasting at an outdoor pavilion by a lake. All around him there are half-eaten dishes of food and empty bottles of beer and baijiu. There’s a pit of embers burning off to the side where there had been a barbecue. Small wooden stakes are sticking out of the ground nearby, monuments to the festivities.

I don’t know where his companions have gone, or why they left him there to contemplate the lake in the moonlight.

I greet him in English, finding it somehow appropriate, “Hello.”

He just shakes his head again, the same way he did before, smiling as he does so.

“What are you doing here?”

He shakes his head again.

“Are you composing poetry?”

Another shake.

I know I’m looking at Shanghai, but I’m compelled to ask, “Will you tell me who you are?”

And another.

I grow frustrated, and sit down next to him at the table, contemplating the mess: crab shells full of ashes and cigarette butts, fish bones piled like offerings to a lowly god of the nearby lake, gobs of pork bellies swimming in seas of purple, coagulating goo, tiny pieces of diced garlic that had once sat in a sea of green vegetables…

I notice that he’s now looking at me, watching me survey the mess. I ask him again, this time almost pleading with him, “Who are you?”

He shakes again, but this time points with his hands, out towards the lake then back across toward the table, as if that gesture itself could relate all that he is – a move from the lake and the forest beyond in the moonlight, full of promise, pristine and untouched to the glaring fluorescent lights just above us and the junkyard of scraps that lay below.

posted by ferret at 11:29 pm  

Powered by WordPress