I look at you Shanghai

A new poem from the land of expat


I look at you Shanghai. I look at you, you look away.


But mind you Shanghai, this is not a love song,

and fuck the broken hearted,

you know what you did to lose what you had,

you all do, as do I.


You gave me everything Shanghai, all you had to offer,

a billion RMB in an LV man-bag, prime real estate in Lujiazui, an uncle in politics,

and a mink mini-skirt on a late night Mint massacre.


That’s right, I know you Shanghai.


I’d race along your gaojia at approaching midnight,

drink and drive from Puxi to Gotham City,

drink and fuck whoever with an ever numbing sense of self-pity,

as M. closes at two,

I’d spend hours on hands and knees by the Jiangpu,

drinking from your veins Shanghai,

as you would want it,

as you demand that I do,

you dirty beautiful whore, you

pulled my head down by the hair, down under the surface,

and refused to let me die.


I look at you Shanghai, and you look away.


In stars and pearls you dress yourself,

my darling mistress of 2008, back when I owned you,

that’s right Shanghai I owned you, I fucking owned you,

and you loved it how I’d treat you like a slut back then,

I’d do whatever and you’d follow,

I still found the green alleys of the French Concession charming back then,

I’d text you and you’d join, your own plans instantly over board,

summer evening strolls,

no worries, no panties,

always on the first date, and always closing.


Back then I was mean to you Shanghai, and you never said a word. It goes to your credit.


I look at you Shanghai. You look away.


I cry in Jing’an, but I get wasted in the French Concession,

with all the other 10 million homeless people here,

like all the other secretly exiled poor fucks here,

tequila to forget and drugs for the pain,

pints for the wicked and wine bars for the vain,


Shanghai, you keeper of tabs, you high roller; shine you crazy diamond.




I look at you Shanghai, I look at you but I have no idea what you are thinking Shanghai, right now in this moment, right here in this forgotten shitty bar on Wuning Lu where I happen to be now in early 2011,

our fling long gone,

dust and dirty tap water,

rust and 9-5 to no good end.


You see I loved you those first years, I did

I just didn’t understand you, I didn’t know how to show it.




You wear a fashionably short evening gown tonight,

and I was the one who helped you with the zipper in the back, Shanghai, only to see that beautiful back walk away.

That sounds sad, but to you it’s just another bottom line.


I look at you Shanghai and I imagine

that your eyes have a secret warmth for me,

black hole suns for the homeless, a tiny bit of

hot burning love for me, “real” feelings for me, ha!


I look at you Shanghai. You look away.


This is not a rant




you crazy bitch, you lovely creature you,


This is a requiem.

Björn Wahlström is editor of H.A.L., a literary website in Shanghai. This poem was first published at the arts journal Unshod Quills.