Arrival

This is a poem by Keith Lipson which he read during the "Void-All Clarinet Concert," Wednesday, April 15 at Peghao Theatre (posted with Keith's permission).

Full of visions of Huineng, ideas of agrarian simplicity coupled with a complete rejection of capitalist neo-colonialist paradigms, I stumble into Stone Family Village. People are burning tires offered up in sacrifice to unseen gods of the lost revolution. I find myself kowtowing to a photograph of the great helmsman, wondering where I am. The stench of pharmaceutical chemicals and the smoke of endless coal-burning furnaces sting the eyes. The sun hidden behind "progress" only comes out in hues of hell-red. I have arrived. I search the aisles of the Xinhua bookstore looking for evidence of an ancient culture and finding nothing but revisionism.

The real cultural indoctrination begins. Dinners of msg saturated animal carcasses washed down with 130 proof grain alcohol and puffs from the local brand of cancer sticks; conversations that center on the profundity of shady business deals, alcohol and women; late night trips to seedy bathhouses wives not included. Reaping the benefits of 30 years of reform and opening.

Roaming Sun Yat-Sen road searching for transitory pleasure accompanied by the strains of banal pop music. I try to escape by taking a trip to Big Buddha Temple north of town. In the dilapidated courtyard minions of headless stone arhats lay strewn about; yet another group of silent victims ravaged by history soon forgotten yet eternally inescapable. The temple gift-shop full of cheap Chinatown trinkets, I buy a dusty book.

Disillusioned with my external surroundings, I return to the small room that I rent in Huaidi village. The landlord greets me as I enter his house. He is taking care of his precious pet crickets which fill the room with their melodic chirping. He smiles at me naturally and unaffectedly. Our conversations, while brief always put my mind at ease. While in his presence, I realize that I have found what I was looking for.

Everyday, we barely take notice. The shy waitress, the quietly-kind taxi driver, the infant struggling to walk towards its doting grandfather, the young couple in the park taking wedding photos, the old auntie sweeping the ground with her whisk broom, its scraping sound filling the air with its gentle rhythm; their wisdom worth more than ten-thousand volumes.

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