This is Nowhere

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July 11, 2021 by ellie892

January 7th, 2020

Another genius poem escaped me in the middle of the night. I tried to grab it as it ran out the door teasing me to get up, but my pen rolled onto the floor and my journal was tangled in blankets. 

I think it went something like I’m driving through Detroit, Chicago, Montreal, Rome, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Chengdu, Budapest, Szeged, Timișoara, Barcelona, Lisbon, Chicago, Montreal, Kingston, Windsor.  Of all of these places, one haunts me and it is the wispy haze of Chengdu – it still calls. The people, their faces always so close I feel their warmth. The time, the deep scent of mold, coal, sweat, blood. This paradise cacophony still feels like the eternal hymn of a spirit home. Cracked cement facades. Half buildings bashed in, spilling with debris, ready to be demolished. They hold me in this uncertain, shifting world.

The last time I walked in this area of Chengdu known as the Five Corners, I was working and rushing through the bumpy streets lined with stationary stores, barbers, noodle shops, shoe repair hubs, bakeries, news stands, motorbike repair shops – dodging welding sparks. Crossing the crowded road with tired students to catch the number 8 or the number 20 or 21 to the bun vendors, where I would hire a tuk-tuk to drive against the traffic on the freeway up the hill to the school where I taught the children of the well heeled. 

Shadow of a profile – wispy in the darkness and the bright yellow plastic Christmas trees. I knew it was a trap the lalala of happiness and the mesmerizing sad songs from the endless erhu melodies that have never ceased and remain ancient reminders of times when lotus blossoms floated quietly in moonlight – where mothers eagerly matched their sons and daughters into marriage to form some new lineages. I see them all waving, reaching for my attention asking not to be buried in neon signs, marbleized walls and polished ornamental gates. I know this is not my place, but a whispery dream that no one will believe except other dreamers. 

I believe in the voices calling from the teahouses – come here. Listen to our music – dance with us! This time, I did not photograph anyone or anything – because I wanted to keep the memory of the 2016 Chengdu not this – where only steam from behind construction walls surrounded me. The mothers have stopped calling and I don’t know how to walk in this darkness – except there is the moon glinting behind the progression of endless columns of steam as construction continues into the darkest caves of night. Nothing stops progress.

new tunnels take us 

the grasp of a rough hand

ancient signs fail


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July 2021


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