Learning to Love an Accident of a Hometown

April 16, 2019

Modern Shenzhen, modern in a post-Deng,
Post-technological boom sense, is only a
Few years my elder. Growing up, I watched
The evisceration of a “fishing village” and its
Infantile self-sufficiency a Transcendentalist
Would think bucolic or picturesque, you know,
Despite the detritus of wars and wrongs and all that
And I watched not a snake shed its skin but
A caterpillar deliquesce in its rancid cocoon
(Death as a prerequisite for rebirth.)
Perhaps the butterfly that emerged was iridescent
But these are violent foreign colors, haphazardly
Treated with the corporate-cosmopolitan odors
And that globalist aesthetic of a concessioned Canton.
But the self-assured westernized snob in me objects,
Why eulogize? What does it matter? You misguided
Faux-nationalist, you’ve reaped your benefits, spoken
The kind of accentless (allow me to be anti-descriptivist)
Lingua franca English of the international pastiche,
When otherwise you’d have been a myopic rustic girl
Taxidermied, stuck performing for the ogling orientalist…
Now subsume this grotesque tableau—this Adidas bike
Propped against steamed bun stall, this large glowing
Transnational fast food sign, this local toddler nudging
Mother asking about that gweilo and the ensuing offense
Of the man who overhears, this Asian-faced customer base
For this Western shopping mall, these great dilapidated
Mongrel throngs of part-Cantonese | part-American
Part-Hakka | Part-British | part-Communist | All Chinese
City of a fumbling postmodern accident.

by Juliette Wu