Saturday Poem

The Next Superpower

On the much-publicised full moon
festive youths and families gorge

on overpriced moon-cakes
to celebrate mid-autumn. How

very poetic. Not all that far away
the plants’ wastes flow

to choke the Yangtze. I can’t
appreciate the taste of the cakes,

their severe sweetness. The Chinese
cherish the stuff. This, they say,

is a beloved tradition. I can’t
remember ever loving anything

resembling one. You can’t finish
yours, and stroll onto the balcony

to view the fireworks. I’m worried
about the colossal dam cracking

and the River devouring this stuffy,
miasmic city. Will nature

ever know what to do with
humans? Will humans surpass words

like “nature”, “river” and “moon”?
The cake, I’ve been told, grows

every year in price. China swells
every year in wealth and power. I’m

frankly terrified of an ecological
armageddon. You seem bored with

the festivities and utterly finished
with the West. We left Australia

for an ancient culture. How
perturbed we are to discern

this country’s gargantuan
industrialisation. I leer at the remnants

of the pungent cake. The West
has traded its soul for a few dollars. Will

China remember the Opium War or
keep eating the impossibly rich

sweets? Am I being simply
disrespectful? What

of it? Glaciers melt and, yes,
this autumn is hotter than summer. So

Capitalism won; the cadres swapped
their gray Mao-esque suits

for the latest Armani. Indeed
your ennui and my disenchantment

match. We’re in love, two ex-pats
struggling to finish our moon-cakes

in the furnace of “the next Shanghai”.

by Ali Alizadeh
from Eyes in Times of War
Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 2006