Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The Angle of the Chinese Shadow
The light in the hall angles
a shadow across the bedroom door,
shaping a Chinese hat.
I read The Hardy Boys: The Mystery
of the Chinese Junk (sounding like
a pile of refuse in Shanghai),
Or Judge Dee, period mysteries
by an expatriate Dutchman, both relics
of imperialism littering the landscape.
Birthing the love affair with all things
Chinese in the 20s and 30s, including
Charlie Chang and No. 2 son, and
San Francisco tong wars;
noir novels wouldn’t be noir
without an opium den.
Henry Luce exploded
Madame Chaing and her husband
on Time’s cover how many times?
Edgar Snow lionized Mao;
Warhol lionized Snow’s Mao;
pop culture lionized Warhol
and gave him his 15 minutes.
Mao’s heirs de-lionized themselves
at Tiananmen Square (iconic photo
of the young man staring down
the tank) and re-lionized themselves
by embracing the Japan Inc cliché.
Rosemary wanted to get you
on a slow boat to China;
Marco Polo if you can and
Genghis Khan if you can’t.
Matteo Ricci angled his own
memory palace while Dunaway
and Nicholson added California
incest to Chinatown’s legends.
They built the railroads;
we built the stereotypes.
Leave the door open, Mama,
I need to see the light,
I need to see the shadow
of the Chinese hat
cast upon the door.
This poem is submitted for One Shot Wednesday hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems, please visit the site.
Photograph: Side Alley by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.