Learning to Love an Accident of a Hometown

by Juliette Wu

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

Amalgamated throngs of part-Cantonese | part-American

Part-Hakka | Part-British | part-Communist | All Chinese

City of a fumbling postmodern accident.