"The Other Side" Contest Winners / March 2015 (Issue 27)

A Corniche in China

by Ken Jackson

There is a corniche in Qingdao, China,
Where you can stroll along the edge of the Yellow Sea.
Okay, it's not really a corniche, it's a sidewalk.
And okay, lunch is squid skewers and warm beer
Not calamari frite and Beaujolais.
But, the sea smell is the same,
And in the late afternoon,
If you've been walking long, and you're tired,
You can shut your eyes, and for an instant
You will leave China for Provence.

In that instant, topless sunbathers line the beach,
And no one is pissing on the street.
The wooden fishing fleet before you
Is suddenly the Yacht Club Cannes.
And the concrete monolith behind you
Is suddenly the Hotel Carlton.
As "ni hao" fades to "bonjour," life seems serene,
And you want it to last. But its duration is brief,
Inversely related to its diversion from reality.

Be content with it.
Do not attempt to extend the illusion,
Because the paving stones are loose
And they are difficult to see with your eyes shut.
And there is surely no harsher re-entry into China
Than a face-plant, on the sidewalk, by a squid stall,
At the edge of the Yellow Sea.
Ken Jackson This is a Finalist of Cha's "The Other Side" Poetry Contest. Ken Jackson on "A Corniche in China": This poem occurred to me during a Sunday break from a too long and too solitary trip through eastern China. It might be a glimpse into how a sudden stimulus can trigger our minds to briefly alter our perception of reality to some imagined or remembered better place. Like when the train whistle inspires Johnny Cash's prison inmate to imagine rich folks eating on white linen and smoking big cigars in "Folsom Prison Blues." Or it might be a reminder that the way we understand and observe life in the present is often influenced by the accumulation of similar experiences we have had in the past. Like T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton”: ‘What might have been and what has been / Point to one end, which is always present.’ Or it might just be a warning to watch your step when you walk along Chinese streets. I wrote it late that same Sunday evening on a sheet of Qingdao hotel stationary, holding an icepack against my forehead. [Read Vinita Agrawal's commentary on "A Corniche in China"] [Back to "The Other Side"]  
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.