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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A City's Breath"

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...


A City's Breath


Shanghai makes New York
look like a puddle in Nebraska.
New York stands on wobbly young legs
and proclaims its importance.
Shanghai laughs
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.

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Current Mood: busy busy

12 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
lupagreenwolf From: lupagreenwolf Date: January 5th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
This one really jumps out at me for some reason; very evocative. Maybe it's because I'm attracted to old places.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I love old places, too. Their history often inspires my writing. This month ran heavy with that, including Detroit as well as China.
bodlon From: bodlon Date: January 6th, 2011 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
This one is absolutely beautiful. I love it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2011 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.

By the way, if you click the "poem" tag in the sidebar, you can read the poems from earlier fishbowls. Or you can go to the landing page, click through to the followup reports, and read them in batches:
http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com/730515.html
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: January 6th, 2011 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like some of the similies and personifications. :)

Edited at 2011-01-06 05:46 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2011 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Some of those are mine, others came from the original discussion.
jolantru From: jolantru Date: January 6th, 2011 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful.
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: January 6th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Eee! This one gave me goosebumps, particularly the part about the busking. I used to be a street busker in Jerusalem, so that resonated.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 6th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I've done a few other poems about busking. Jerusalem, wow, what a location!
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: January 6th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It was quite an experience. I'm still looking for the person who was my singing partner. He went off to India, with his partner and their child and disappeared out of my life entirely.

I often wonder how he's doing.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Wow, that's quite an adventure. It's interesting how people come and go, through our lives.
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: January 7th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It really is. Intersecting with him changed my life, and reinforced certain things I've carried with me in the 20 or so years since it happened.
12 comments or Leave a comment