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First Trip to China

1

Here on Chung-Ting Street
Oh the passage into China was great
I enjoyed it very much
Movies give you no idea

We landed at Shanghai Airport
It was six o’clock in the morning
Ted Pat Bennie Arnolda Jeanne and I
The airport attendants were kind

They help us with our baggage
We see the first green
Incredible glimmerings of our
First Chinese dawn!

And then the ride into town
In that swinging limousine!
Joyce says tell Bud to wake up
And wow look at things!

Riding along easy does it old man
Here’s your lodging the street Gin-Fan
No I’m wrong it should be Chung-Ting
Street I’m sorry climb back on in

And so we do, and so we go
And now have gone, here
To Chung-Ting Plaza, off which branches
Daffodil, Memory, Kai-Ing-Ta, and Chung-Ting Streets

Goodbye for now it’s been great to be here
So far and I like to talk about it
But we couldn’t sleep at all on the flight
So I’ll sign off now with Chen, good night!

September 24, 1971, Shanghai, China

2

Bang up and away
Start of a new day
In Shanghai City of Rose Blossoms!
These people
Are not strange
They are just like our people!
Except they work a longer day
Have better manners
And except the food is terrific!
Why have we kept these
People out of the United Nations for
So long? Communist Threat blah!
These are lovely people
Like Mrs. Wu
Who wakes us up with tea for two
And says Wang-chay-ki, which means
Good morning and may Chairman Mao
Snow down blessings on your head!
Well, that is a little odd
But Christ was once a living man too
And so was Buddha
And it may be a dumb thing to think
But if someone has helped you a lot
Why not treat him as a god?
God knows there’s little enough
Reward for those who dedicate
Themselves to solve their people’s fate
And go into hiding, and fight
And risk gun-balls day and night
And all for what? Nothing! unless the people respond.
So I take this as a nice gesture
And I thank Mrs. Wu kindly for it
And we drink the tea and go back to sleep
This poem is being written
After we woke up. It was already two o’clock!
What would the Chinese think?

September 25, Shanghai The “Wake-Up Poem”

3

At the beginning of this long section, the students meet a Chinese nurse who agrees to take them on a trip to Chen-Chu-Far, which is famed for its great variety of pagodas.

* * * * *

And then—we were in Chen-Chu-Far My God it’s beautiful
Pagodas everywhere that you can see like windmills in Holland
It’s absolutely terrific Wow say we The nurse smiles
I see you don’t care so much for our “modern China” says she
We smile laugh and say we like both plenty
The one of course is bound to remind Chinese
Of the injustice that went with it but our associations
Are so different we can perhaps like things that they can’t
Oh no it’s not that Nurse Chang said We love our past
And we have somehow fitted it to go with our modern ideas
We still practice acupuncture for example
But we regard it as the ultimate in contemporary medicine
Oh I see Jim said and how do you feel about pagodas,
Nurse Chan—Chang she said, and he I’m sorry! This was the beginning
Of a personal relation between them it just began this day
And blossomed later there was a secret look in her eyes
Which Jim saw and he felt the strangeness too
Even in this unique place before fields of pagodas
The true strangeness a fluttering of the human heart
Pagodas are wonderful for me, Nurse Chang said
Because I always associate them with different people
That bent one over there for instance is like my grandfather
And this little one here is like my dog “Jewels”
Oh we didn’t know you had a dog
Yes I have three dogs: Emma, Jewels, and Raindrop. They all—
Yes they all have English names I have been practicing your language
All my life and dreaming of an occasion like this
When I could speak the language You do it very well
Pat said and we all jounced into the automobile thanking the nurse
Profusely for what she had done and she said oh it is nothing
But there was a secret look in Jim’s eyes now as well as in hers
But it has been something! we said
(For them, it might be much more!)
Then, end of the excursion for this day
Which has been only half a day really, since we slept so late
Tonight we are invited to dine with a Chinese family
Which makes me happy because I love the food
Home to Chung-Ting Street for Jim memories of Nurse
Time to get dressed and out again into the Shanghai night!

September 25, Shanghai

4

It’s really great to be here
The food the people everything
Are really terrific
I’m having a great time and so is everyone else
If this is communism god bless it
We had a great meal last night
If Chinese people came to the United States
How could they enjoy themselves this much?
In America everything’s boring—the iced tea, the butter dish, the car
Here everything is exciting
Maybe communism is the answer for the United States
We’re really having a ball—a party every night
In a different quarter of Shanghai
And every morning a trip to a new type of factory!
While Jim and the Nurse make cow eyes at one another
The rest of us walk restlessly about the city
Seeking for one clue in someone’s mouth or eyes
Of what life is really all about
We expect to find it here, amazingly enough,
Though of course we don’t
Shanghai is just one of many cities
That give this sensation the Nurse says
It wears off in twenty years wow
I wish I could live to be a thousand
And spend twenty years in every city like that
Because I love the pursuit of meaning in a woman’s face
Or in the shade and slant of a building
However we only have visas here for two weeks
So now it is time to go
Back to school I am tempted to defect
But what would we do here be translators? interpreters?
At Chung-Ting Street we have a conference, and decide to go back
But we vow that we will someday come back to China
And see other cities and have a universally great time!

October 8, 1971, Shanghai “Farewell”

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