Tom Mangione

Tom Mangione is a writer and musician living in Shanghai. He's one of the founders of United Verses and the lead singer/guitar player of The Horde. "Rice Fields" is an extract from a novel-in-verse currently in progress. More of his musings can be found at his blog, Scruta

Posts by Tom Mangione


A prophesy comes true in Shanghai – fiction by Tom Mangione


When I first came to Shanghai, I was a young man with a full head of hair and a bare chin. I could grow a beard, but I always thought it a bit gauche. Back home, everyone was growing beards, but the trend was lost on me. Clean-shaven felt classic, and I was a classic kind of guy. Maybe I was more classic than I knew.

I spent my first weekend in town at some local bars that I'd heard were cool. Everything about me gave away the fact that I was new to Shanghai, new to China, new to all of it. I fumbled with the novel currency, studying Mao’s smirk each time I pulled out my wallet. I tried out my nascent Chinese – wo yao yi ge pijiu – only to have the bartenders answer in calm, steady English. I was the proverbial deer in the headlights, and Shanghai was the Mack truck ready to splatter my assumptions all over the pavement. 

At the bar, I took up conversation with a middle-aged, white American guy, sitting sad and alone. He was bald, bearded and quite skinny. He looked like he had no one to talk to, and I felt sorry for him. I don't remember anything we talked about except for one thing. He said that every white man who stays in China long enough becomes bearded, bald or both. Usually both. When he said this I assumed that this was just his way of coddling his fragile middle-aged ego. He was, well, bald and bearded himself. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was wrong. Deer-in-the-headlights-meets-Mack-truck wrong. A chin full of prickly pear stubble is fate. A shiny bowling ball of a pate is destiny.


Poem: Salvation (拯救)

A bilingual poem by Tom Mangione



Plastacine pilgrims at the shuttle launch

Combinations, switchbacks in time

Black holes of memories leading back

We go under by going over


Priestly penny pinchers

Gather on the periphery

Flags of our fathers rise up


Rice Fields

A poem by Tom Mangione