Somewhere in China
by Eric Chaet
Somewhere in China
someone—say, a man—
is not benefiting from
the industrial transformation
the financial bonanza
has, for decades
been quietly saying something
when he speaks
something as subversive
against the complainers
the wicked government
& clever entrepreneurs
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 are discarding.
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 film star, or call-center or software design tycoon, either
aware of, but not complacent about the Vedas or nirvana
communism, neoliberal development schemes
the possibilities of the internet, Sanskrit, Hindi, English.
Or neither corrupt official nor ruthless rebel
in Mediterranean, Saharan, or south of the Sahara Africa
east or west of the Great Rift
no mere victim of nepotism, militia rampages, disease
or of prevailing poverty, either
has something going that may or may not succeed
others encouraging him or not
some days confident, other days paralyzed with anxiety
maybe he’s learned to resist succumbing to panic
til it subsides, then one step forward after another.
Or maybe he’s in South America, descendant of migrants
from Greek islands, Anatolia, Phoenicia, Carthage, Ur
Indus valley, Pacific isles, China, Japan, Mongolia, Siberia
great great grandson of Inca engineer or Spanish conquistador
or creole trader with British or North American exporters
having heard the speeches
then lived thru euphoric then despairing consequences
maybe he has no use for pro-Yanqui or anti-Yanqui
parties, factions, gangs, 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 so-called Communist rulers of China
& the so-called Free Market rulers of 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 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—
Also posted online @
Poetry Dispatch and other Notes from the Underground (USA), Dear Dirty America (USA).
Previously posted @ Heavy Bear (USA).
Maybe Lao Tzu looked something like so,
one relatively late day of his life.
Some say that was the unknown artist’s intent.
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