Poetry / November 2011 (Issue 15)

Panda, Macao, Gondolas

by Nicholas Wong

"No one will believe this story I am telling, so it must be true."
                                        Sherman Alexie

Panda bribed a fisherman for a boat from Sichuan to Macao.
It's time to leave the pastures, too natural and boring, he said.

Five days of rocking in the sea, he drank
fresh spicy ginger juice and looked only at distant clouds,
so he would not be sea sick.

When he arrived, he was shocked by the crowds, mostly Chinese.
He looked up his Lonely Planet guide
that said Macao was once a colony, so expect to see Portuguese.
He tore the page, telling himself not to trust history.

His eyes were in the present. Those street signs, so existential.
The exotic nomes de ruas Português defined
the idea of travelling.

He came not for the Ruins of St Paul's, or the A-Ma Temple,
but the casinos. Not MGM or Wynn, where orange ceilings and magenta carpets
were signs of fire.

He listened to his feng shui master, he had to be near water.
So there he was, in the Venetian,
full of gamblers, riding on gondolas whose bottoms said
"Made in China".

Songs of slot machines heard along the Grand Canal,
over which Panda already sat in front of one.
He pulled the bar, then the screen, split into boxes, always showed
twelve different images. He felt dizzy.
For the first time, he hated varieties in life.
Then he passed aisles of Caribbean poker tables.
Too American.

When Panda gambled, he gambled in the Chinese way –

he stopped at the dice and bet on BIG and SMALL
alternately. All his life he dreamed of fortune, but destiny
attached him to the bamboo woods,
where he rolled over hills and played dead.

He left his beginner's luck in Sichuan, or on the boat.
For everything he bet on, the opposite happened.
No one knew how much he lost. Some said
he borrowed a loan from Shark, some said he sold his bile
to black markets, some saw him drunk in Black Sand Bay,
losing his mind and dignity.

If one day you see Panda in Macao, don't be suspicious.
He is not a gift from the Maoists, not a gesture
of generosity. Animals are not always national and political.

Panda is a middle class being, like everyone else middle class,
he wants his fate to be fortunate.  
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.