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.


Louise Gallagher said...

What a trip down memory lane you've created Glynn.

wow -- so seriously. How long did it take you to connect all these cultural references -- amazing!

Very cool!

Bob Spencer said...

That's a gem. Inspiring. I want to write something like that, with its concordance of memories, images, etc. Really quite beautifully done.

Maureen said...

I think this is one of your best, Glynn. The title is an immediate pull, the cultural references and allusions are well-knit, and the concluding stanza is wonderful.

Never truer lines than "They built the railroads; / we built the stereotypes."

SylTeszseri said...

Best damn thing I've read all year. Do it again.

S. Etole said...

you keep on creating masterpieces ...

Anonymous said...

Woah. A stunning ride through history, and culture, for that matter. A casual voice for such a serious reckoning - so many things at work here, slapping at the contentment of our modern world to ensconce itself in delusions..."they built the railroads / we built the stereotypes" hits it right on the nail. Enthralling, engaging read, that weaves an intricate picture for us in allusion, memory, and critique.

L.L. Barkat said...

That ending is great. So poignant, after the more detached historical listings. I really liked it.

And this phrase especially...

"I need to see the shadow
of the Chinese hat"

Corbie said...

I too enjoyed all of the cultural mentions. Great poem Glynn, as usual I look forward to reading many more. ~Corbie Sinclair

Beachanny said...

Right there with you all the way - junks and slow boats with Rosemary Clooney -- threading out the imaginations we had as children reading the early books and history brought full circle with an origami hat. It was like a movie and we were in it. The best kind of a poem, I think.

Brian Miller said...

what a rich poem glynn...love the weaving of culture through out and the seriousness of the pictures we create ourselves in our stereotypes...

Leslie said...

I like the way you begin and end with your childhood memory, with the history and culture sandwiched between. I, too, am in awe of the way you wove all those references so neatly together!

hedgewitch said...

The mysterious Orient...now it's been either zennified, westernized, or just globalized to remove all the romance your poem lays on. I especially like your last two lines with their nostalgia for all that was lost along with those naive but evocative stereotypes.

signed...bkm said...

Wonderful writing on the Chinese mystic that took over the country...lots of Chinese history in where I live in Sacramento...they ran the stores providing supplies to all the miners in the Gold Rush...in the Sacramento Railroad museum there is a world section dedicated to the work they did on the railroad....

Love the whole poem....great writing...bkm

dustus said...

"They built the railroads;
we built the stereotypes."

While stereotypes persist, your poem provides a pile of evidence proving unfair characterization. Insightful poetry. Extremely well done.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. And my Chinese daughter thanks you.

Claudia said...

wow - there's a lot in this poem..demands a second or third read...esp. like..
They built the railroads;
we built the stereotypes.

Jerry said...

the two liner is the thesis of this poem..."they built the railroads, we built the stereotypes."
When I was young THE AMAZING CHAN AND THE CHAN CLAN was a popular cartoon. I still remember the theme song.

Ami Mattison said...

What a fantastic poem! The beautiful intrigue of the opening draws in the reader and the turning point on the railroads and the stereotypes is brilliant. But I think I like best the return to the Chinese hat at the end--such delicate longing there. Fine writing!

Steve Isaak said...

Superb image and character flow - naturally dramatic, without being precious Lifetime-Movie-of-the-Puke-Week about it.

That is, you nailed this, hard, my friend. =)

Shashidhar Sharma said...

Hi Glynn

I liked the images that you have created here. So vivid and interesting...

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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