This poem came out of the January 4, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a Cybermind discussion about China, between Chris Mann and Maurizio Mariotti. It was sponsored by marina_bonomi. Things are only strange if you don't understand why they are that way...
Shanghai makes New York
look like a puddle in Nebraska.
New York stands on wobbly young legs
and proclaims its importance.
and stacks centuries like bricks.
The city above the sea
was ancient and strange
before America was ever born.
Sometimes the Eight Immortals come down
to busk on the street corners,
Lan Ts'ai-ho singing with flower basket in hand,
Han Hsiang-tzu playing along on flute.
A sister in Beijing,
teaching at an American University,
solemnly tells her brother
that crossing a street in Beijing
is a life-threatening exercise:
not only the incredible number of vehicles,
but the way they are driven.
Sometimes the qi-lin rummage in dumpsters
and one never knows when they might
dart out into traffic. Foreigners
mistake them for dogs.
A city's breath
is the speech of its people.
Myths and histories rise up from beneath the roads
like steam from a manhole cover,
ghostly and compelling.