Wuhan: Wuchang District

The citizens of Wuchang discard their emptied hot-and-dry noodle bowls
onto the crumbling sidewalk after meals.

It’s easier than finding a trash can.

 

Sometimes they discard their dead dogs there, too,
their white fur dulled by the soot of the city.

They will be brushed by a street-cleaner into a bag
with the noodle bowls, and

nobody will have to think about them anymore.

 

Wuchang often rains until sheets of water slide across
parking lots in waves.

But when it doesn’t rain, the sun bakes the men into
hauling their shirts up around their chests

baring smooth hairless bellies, and the women into

buying frilly umbrellas to shade their pale skin.

The perpetual smog partners with the umbrellas,
fogging out the sun and painting the sky
pallid white.

 

Between the palatial police station and the paint-peeling
apartments dripping laundry lines,
cars ignore traffic lights and shove past crossing pedestrians.

 

Meanwhile, at the Hubei Museum,
curious children peer through glass windows at the relics of
old Wuhan. The girls like the carved combs,
imagining the delicate hands that maneuvered them and the elaborate
ebony hair in which they attracted the lingering gazes of men.

The boys point out in excitement the swords and arrowheads used in battles
for a China that has since been pushed to temple tourist corners
by the citizens of Wuchang, who discard emptied hot-and-dry noodle bowls
onto the crumbling sidewalk after meals.

 

Sometimes they buy their dogs there, too,
squirming puppies with wet button noses,

sold by illegal streetside vendors to children who laugh
when they touch the soft white fur.

 

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