Farewell China

Today was my last full day in China, and what a beautiful day. Perfectly clear, a bit of breeze, and maybe 80ish outside. Made for strolling, which is exactly what I did, through the beautiful French Concession area of Shanghai.

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If the Bund is where the British were, the Concession is where the French rebuilt Paris in Asia. The area is eerily reminiscent of France. With great shade trees lining wide streets, gated villas, and stately French architecture everywhere. I mainly felt like I was back in southern France, in Aix. Same exact feel, and nearly identical type of weather. A stroll in this area is truly a must do, and makes for some excellent people watching. Everyone just going about their business, all the while with bicycles slowly going by.

The French Concession really is all about walking and observing, and is supremely beautiful, almost too beautiful. What I mean by this is that you honestly lose touch with where you are, and, like at the Bund, can suddenly swear you are in Europe. It is a replication. Designer shops everywhere, eateries everywhere, high end and more high end. Not that this isn’t nice, for a while. But one thing I have really noticed in Shanghai is that most people, the normal, everyday Chinese, do not really live like this.

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A great case in point in that nothing is ever busy is the posh parts of town. I honestly think a lot of businesses never see a customer the entire day. A true image I will take back with me is the empty, ritzy stores with some poor person sitting, bored out of their mind all day. I can back this up even more because I have gone in these stores, and it’s like the person awakes from the dead, and is so happy there’s a person in the store. It’s not that they want you to buy something per see. I honestly think they are just so grateful to have something to do.

So, Shanghai is supremely beautiful. A wealthy, posh place full of every imaginable comfort. Geared towards luxury and pleasure. But, for the traveler, quite frankly a pretty boring place. I need some more rough-edges, some nasty smells, some challenges. It’s just too nice here, and that leaves me unaware of the underbelly that makes for the best travel. I find that you really only come to appreciate places when you see the grit and grime and nastiness… these are the things, oddly, that are the most beautiful. The side-streets, the dirty alleys, the people living honestly. The smells and chaos and weirdness and beauty. Things that are too nice are hiding something, and that’s a shame for the traveler (though not perhaps for the tourist).

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This was awesome. An older woman writing on the sidewalk with water!

But, all in all, I can’t complain, though it might sound like I am. Shanghai is a wonderful city, and I have loved being here. It is the future of China, and I would definitely come back. We just can’t lose sight of the ancient, the old, the nasty, the unclean, in that relentless march forward. For me at least, that would be a great, great shame…

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Lines from a Changed Land

Tumbling and fallings and things
That once were now are washed
Away in streams that
Move to unknown lands. Things they

Say change and we must
Change with
Them. That towers move

And we move from quakes that
Topple stout buildings of
Yester-year. While it all seems

So tragic and old and like
A man sitting alone on the edge
Of ancient trees and not knowing
Which way to go.

A Mountaineer’s Lament

Found on a ridge on
A lonely trail.

You cannot find it if
You looked even so
Hard. Down deep tunnels in
Quiet mountains. In
Trees and lakes in
Towns that died long
Ago. You cannot
Find it.

More so think to see
It in sunshine mist on half-
Cold winter days. The form
Far off on hills that almost seem
To wave,
To us…

A lone bird that sits
Pensive in the cool
Morning air. You

Cannot find
It even if you looked even
So hard,
So still.

Notes on How to Read a Poem

It is such a foolish mis-
Conception to think that words
Tell us what they mean. That
To read is to read about what:
We see. That

Words do not
Fall apart and
That we must see
This breakage and wreck-
Age if we
Want to
Know what a thing
Really: means. It’s

Between
The words. The moments
Of shadows and sunlight spilling
Down the sides of distant
Hills that we catch just as an after-
Thought as we round the bend by the
Tree that was broken by the lightning
Bolt out of clouds that screen what
We just can’t see. I see

That to know we must see
What we can’t see when words
Hold too tightly together.
Too solid. Too firm. Rather

Celebrate the bro-
Ken the way we
Push words aside to see
That ancient light lurking
Somewhere within…

An Ode for Lost Things

Songs like winds that blow
Down from things lost below
Stairs… sifting and sifting. It

Is never enough. The doors

That slam shut on floors we
Once walked down. The whispers
Behind walls. The tap tap
Of quiet rain on misty window
Panes. I cannot think of these things

Without thoughts of drives along
Wet roads. The broken stair with
The one creaking board. That

Coin I dropped but cannot
Find. Pulling away dusty
Cupboards in pursuit.

Photos I never took. Marbles
That roll along cold floors. These

Like songs on distant hill-sides on
Windy, way-laid days.

Snaps in barren woods.
The creak of hinges beside
Cool mountain streams. These

Like a song, lost,
Somewhere in
The distance.

Brief Thoughts on Summer Days

Quiet canyons and the call of
High, black birds seem to rest
On the backs of cool, silent
Rivers

That I see flowing off in
Dreams and smells of fresh
Lilacs that bloom by
Streams

Running down the red rock
Walls. These the places and
Scenes of a summer time by
Creeks

That call us to come
To paintings found in corners
Of caves. The new flowers we
Cannot, quite, find.

In Praise of Other Things

I like all of the voices, the
Slight changes and tones and
Inflections that point towards
Some lone voice,
Howling in the woods. It

Just seems so pleasant to
Hear them even when I can’t
Even see who they are, these
Poets lost somewhere along
Wires and mist and signals sent
Flying across the globe. They

Say things about nature and love
And places and tastes tasted once
On long ago sands. The smell of
Warmth and midnight rain. The
Clap of thunder that wakens you
With a start. I

Hear them. I admire their voices and
Ways of saying. Those lingering
Posts that still wait to be clicked on
The silver screen…

Sad Palmyra, Ruined Again

Such wanton madness such
Bat-blind destruction and
Death of beautiful things. I think of

Rampages at night. Cries
From the ruined walls of
Ancient sites: heads lopped
Off, temples toppled, shot
At and blown
Away. Then,

Quiet men
Taken to broken amphitheaters…
An old-time
Entertainment, renewed. Such

Madness such death
In ancient sands. As
Men grin at tattered
Statues that once held up
Grand archways over grand,
Roman parades. Of cheers

To conquering men. Of
Wine spilled of madness
On burning hill-
Sides where we see tanks
Bursting forth and still…

That silence of centuries of
Men and of women who lived
Here once but blew away like
Sandstorms on dark nights that
Blot out those distant stars we
Just can’t quite see. Lovely,

Palmyra…

Spring Snow

Great, cruel storms that sweep
Down from great lands somewhere
Up North pile up and stain a
Vibrant white door, chairs…
Stools foolishly left
Outside. How it

Coats walls and reminds me of
That great, lone house in Dr.
Zhivago. Out in a lost
Country. Full of frozen statues,
Quaint chairs pulled up beside
Frozen fires. A winter-land
Inside. Snow backs by dinner
Tables. Chandeliers of ice and
Old fires. While in

A locked room upstairs the
Snow swirls and slaps but
A single fire lights old thoughts and
Gives a place for poems and love and
A safe spot amidst the storm,

As it runs down from far off
Places and piles up near once
Warm lands of still ponds and
Deep, lurking streams.

Winter Shoes

“As she walks through the coffee shop…”

An old pair of shoes on
A cold, frost-bitten
Day. Lop-sided, broken…

The dry heel leans
To one side. As

The pale, pink toes
Seem to poke out and
Hint at, what I think,
Must be a strange world
Lurking, somewhere,
Below.

The dry heel
Leans to
One side. Hiding.

Hiding?