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Clouds and Hutongs

Two poems by Xue Di – translated by Alison Friedman

 

Clouds

Those are clouds – lifeless expressions in eyes swaying below

cracked lips; on vision’s gloomy coast, they hide and seek.

That is me in the empty field,

alarmed.

The road’s deceptive snakeskin pattern; in all directions voracious trees

devour sunlight.

Those are clouds. In delusion I summon those clouds longing

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Bright Lights, Big Dreams

Inside the world of reality TV dating shows – by Alec Ash

 

When rock didn’t make him famous, Lucifer tried TV. Rustic had burnt bright but short. D-22 club had closed in early 2012, and the scene had moved on. But talent and dating shows were booming, and here he looked for a new adoring audience.

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June Silkworms

A short story by Josh Stenberg

 

I wouldn’t call it exactly a conscious process, but you move to a new city and you think: who and when is it going to be, who will occasion the love affair, here? Who will pose the question?

If this is your attitude – and it is the only honest attitude – then the woman in question will materialise. You have to summon her out of the ether. Such persons, seemingly autonomous, are a result of your desiring them, of self-hypnosis. If you focus on this problem (and who ever really focuses on anything else?) at very least an obsession will develop. And why not? Obsessions pass the time just as well as actual lovemaking, which also has epidemiological drawbacks.

Cities are times and times are women. Women are cities and cities are times. I have lived in a number of cities, each of which has their official historical obsession, affair, question, concern. I grew up in Zhenjiang, a poorish Jiangnan city famed for its vinegar and the story where White Snake tries to drown the evil monk on the monastery hill. Yet I spent years at my classroom window, waiting for a succession of girls – whose very names fade before my groping mind – to wander beneath, to exhibit themselves to view. Life, catwalk, school, asylum. High school life was chaste, or self-indulgent; adolescent dreams were fed, almost innocently, by the one soft-porn film that a friend had brought back from a trip to Hong Kong. No snake appeared; not even a fox.

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Black Cell

Life in a Chinese detention centre – by Dylan Levi King

 

I left Guangzhou in a mess. I had rolled in a year before, coming from Shanghai on a thirty hour train with no seat, slumped beside the bathroom door, but had picked myself up and scraped together a near-perfect life: a job doing nothing, a girlfriend, an apartment in a luxury compoud and trips to Hong Kong on the weekend. But had trashed it all in the space of a few weeks. I became nocturnal, haunting the clubs downtown. I would wake up in the apartment of my dealer, huddled up with a girl and a blister pack of pills, or sleep it off in a spa and wake up at noon. That summer I looked up a friend of a friend, found an email that had been in my inbox for months, and lined up a job in Datong, Shanxi. I took the slow train headed north, carrying only a backpack with a change of clothes and my laptop.

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Ashes for Ashes

A Chinese funeral – by Kim Willcocks

 

It was a shock to us all when Lao Lao, my Chinese grandmother-in-law, died. She was 88, which was, as we say in England, a good innings. But she had been so hale and hearty until the end that most of her family felt sure she would reach a hundred. My wife was very close to her as Lao Lao had basically brought her up while my wife’s busy parents worked.

Lao Lao’s life offers a glimpse at how much China has changed.

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