Poetry Dispatch No. 73 | May 28, 2006
SOMEWHERE IN CHINA by Eric Chaet
Somewhere in China,
someone—say, a man—
is not benefiting from the industrial transformation,
is not benefiting from the financial bonanza, the bee-hive,
has, for decades, been quietly saying
something completely different, when he speaks,
something as subversive against the complainers & critics,
as against the wicked government & clever entrepreneurs,
subversive even against the victims clinging to the old ways
among the poisoned villages & paddies on the cities’ outskirts.
He’s rarely listened to,
or if listened to, what he says is rarely grasped & remembered:
it seems to have so little to do with what needs to be done,
to succeed in the race along the same line as his own—
opposite direction, tho—& he meanders now & then—
pace varies, too—along a road he builds as he goes along
of what the others discard.
He’s not imprisoned—he’s not taken that seriously.
Maybe something he said was quoted in a newspaper,
but, if so, inaccurately.
Maybe he was on a TV news show,
but only as a prop, someone walking around back of a crowd,
that’s gathered around a collapsed building or mine,
or exploded fire-works factory.
He’s not one of the famous dissidents,
tho he’s been talking against those who govern
longer than they.
He’s not famous at all, & he isn’t setting money aside, either.
The people around him are as used to him as to old Lao Tzu,
but they aren’t always so glad to see him as they were Lao Tzu—
according to Lao Tzu.
Anyway, maybe the man’s not in China, after all.
Maybe he’s in India, & not considered a guru,
no software whiz or hand-held electronic gizmo-producer, either.
Or in west Africa & not a corrupt official or rebel—
or maybe he’s in South America, & has no use for the agendas
of any of the pro-Yanqui or anti-Yanqui factions or cartels.
When I was a child,
people joked that since China was on the other side of the world
the people must be upside-down.
But now the wicked rulers of China & the USA are allies,
my shirts & pants were made in China—
got them for 25 cents each, like new, at separate rummage sales—
& wages have dropped like a rock thru a hole thru the Earth,
relative to houses, cars, fuel, education, health care,
or influencing a legislator.
So people in China must be oriental as we are oriented,
as Einstein says that clocks are the crudest meters
with only the vaguest relationship to the relative speed
& value of light & events—& space, too, isn’t as we thought—
& Euclid was only right if you’re a cartoon on a sheet of paper,
not walking along a road after rush hour, dandelion morning,
observing sheets, shirts, & pants pinned to a catenary, flapping in breeze—
bud-bursting tree of life, & green, blue, & floating white horizon beyond.
Other day, in a cafe,
a man who heard me talking about the USA
told me, “Love it or leave it.”
I replied with my eyes & voice lowered, to control my fury:
“This is my country—I was born here.
I worked for this country in Mississippi, Missouri, & D.C.,
& there are still millions left out.
If you don’t like the way I’m talking in my country,
The fellow in China is saying something similar
(so did Socrates, but it was Greek to the Athenians,
arrogantly determined to get their asses kicked, permanently)—
tho his language is by no means Indo-European—
with different symbols, syntax, & pitches
rising & sinking like thrown horse-shoes or ducks on a river.
Many parallel lines may cross at a point,
& events from different times & places
have more to do with a development, sometimes,
more to do with an inflection or an utter transform—
than those immediately adjacent or sequential,
or repeated, it often seems,
by everyone, everywhere—thoughtlessly, carelessely.