Peking Days

There are days when all the havoc floats away like flotsam, days when Peking blossoms into full perfection.  Days when one’s roommate runs away forever to Mongolia, when blankets fill the window and allow one to chose the moment of introduction to the sun, days when noon has the aura of early morning, when clouds become distinct, when one finds that shampoo suffices to clean one’s clothes, days when the bugs recede, when one forget to pick up the business cards because there is no urgent business, days when the air clears and the mountains emerge with dignified clarity, when the archives move like concrete blocks in the constructive mind, when the mix of tea and water is right, when a line of eight North Koreans walk past with beautiful smiles, when the dumplings are 5 yuan, when the garbage is not fetid, when you see a map of unexplored territories in Europe and savor their savage urbanity, when the arc of the Foreign Ministry recedes behind trees planted by thoughtful Chinese oil company architect-planners, when one ignores the newspaper for a few hours, when one folds up everything into a small box and walks away, days when one craves a certain dish and arrives at the old haunt restaurant to find that it has looked like a bombed-out 抗战 Chongqing Dagongbao office for two years, but one admires its dusty grey beauty // its ornaments defiant amid twisted metal // days when the water flows, when the bum sits down with aspirated satisfaction on the giant bag of plastic bottles, when the little store of fan motors has not been swallowed by monolithic kitsch, when you acknowledge that you love even to hate this city, when the 青菜腐竹 arrives gently on the table, when ghosts from the past arrive with new hair cuts, when the lilies have uprooted to move to the south shore —

//on such days, the mutton shop once mourned becomes a field of orange geraniums waving like pendulums of time//

days when one has forgotten and then rediscovered a flavor at a smooth table, when a huge window looks out at a wall – you recall its construction, you no longer need to know when it is coming down – when one has planned a series of lessons and trapdoors for the young, when one reads headlines like “Americans save money, Chinese don’t worry,” when one walks directly into Vice-Premier Xi Jingping’s hortatory speech on the 7 o’clock news on the 109 to Jingshan Park and gets a seat in front of the television and is inundated immediately with “liberation thinking” “choice of the people” and the notion of comedy rapidly passes and//when it comes down to it// one becomes genuinely and inexplicably interested traversing the streets by old Peking University—

days when one coils up within the second ring road and finds again the eccentric old men, where dogs waddle, birds skate through the air, when the white hulk of an airplane can be discerned hovering beyond the Worker’s Stadium, when one has finally laid siege to a particular 字 and anticipates drumbeats of victory in this battle of annihilation, when one dreams not of Yanji or Strasbourg but of another hour of daylight, when the library closes but one finds a French pencil and turns joyfully to the bag on one’s back, when those to whom you lent Hamlet cling to it and affirm its perfection, when Anglophone thoughts thrum guiltless and powerful through the atmosphere, when one meets again a brother in 帽儿胡同, when one circumambulates the Mongol lakes, peering into their waters.  Diving into these depths as the twilight recedes into amber would be perfectly natural, yet, is not needed, because one knows how it feels.

1 Comment

  1. a lovely paean. so lyrical.

    it’s title should be, in homage to schnittke, “(k)ein sommertagsbaden”

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