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  • (I.)

    On some nights, admist this atmospheric haze, the sun is actually red. Like a perfectly round red lollipop in the sky. One could lick it and burn up in a ball of flame while choking on 30,000 feet of Beijing city smog. It would taste like the infinitude of a burning country as old as the parting of the continents itself. It would crumble at the touch of the tongue.

    I have lost my ability to read Chinese. Ten thousand years of scholarly meaning rendered to only pictures to me. Funny-looking shapes with little squares and dots, like mashed-up constellations . The infinity of illegibility match cut with the infinity of lost culture. Insert a little space ship soaring through the center of each.

    Almost hidden in the corner of a spacious zoo-yard, a lonesome panda walks back and forth and back and forth in routine orbit around a rock. It's already been about an hour, and the panda has not yet stopped it's endless circle.

    This panda is the mother of a newborn panda that recently got shipped to another zoo. Yearning for his mother, this panda refuses to eat the bamboo leaves given by zoologists. Thus a zoologist dresses up as a larger panda, in 90 degree heat, and feeds the panda with un-gloved human hands. Now, the young panda eats.


    Somewhere deep underground, the hair of 200 Beijing civilians is swept sideways by the breeze of a speeding subway train. Submerged, waist-deep in sweaty commuters, I am pushing my way through to the already closing doors. Inside, I join the herd of people rocking back and forth to an unknown rhythm. This rhythm, is the heartbeat of this line 1 subway. Ten stops later, the crowd has dribbled out like an emptying basin, leaving only a handful of people in this compartment. In the distance, I hear some kind of generation-old folk song about Chinese pride. This song is one I remember from my childhood. My parents would sing to their chinese friends to imported karaoke LPs in the suburban home I grew up in. The wind would carry my mother's voice out the window, and it would fill the snow-covered streets in the quiet Canadian neighborhood that I grew up in. But instead, here, in this subway, this very same song is carried to hundreds of pairs of human ears by a wireless microphone held in the hand of a disabled woman being pushed in a wheel-chair by a forty-year-old man. Dangling from the arm rest, There is a paper bag filled with a feeble amount of chinese yuan. Though she sings in perfect pitch, hitting all the right notes, there is no joy in her voice as it formulates the syllables "China, the country of my home." In the split second of a moment where we exchange glances, to me, she is an embodiment of pained wonder carved into my memory forever -- to her, I am just one of thousands of faceless subway commuters soaring through her periphery everyday. Our bodies rock back and forth in unison to the trembling train. And then she and her voice disappear into the droning shuffle of this train. I wonder about her. How old she is, how exposed she feels, has she ever felt true happiness amidst all the subway compartments after subway compartments her voice has come to inhabit and haunt?

    I get off this train, only to prepare to transfer to another one. I feel faint, as the station fades into an under-exposed photograph, large silhouettes, friends, and people gathering around me. This place that is no place. A hole dug to China. I was brought up by the hands that held the shovel.
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