Wusong Bridge

The gilded bridge over the river;
on the steps leading up to the bridge,
the beggar;
and Carrefour on the other side,
the facade,
painted Paris scenes,
the Seine.
What isn't imitated:
the beggar.
I stand and watch
a black plastic bag
floating in the green
murky water.
Portrayed at Carrefour
is the good life:
the famous river
and its arching bridges,
the small cafes along the quais,
the Eiffel Tower,
even Le Louvre
with Palais Royal
in the background—
think of all those treasures inside!—
while here on the bridge
are four towers,
tinsel-gold figurines on top
meant to represent
"Conception, Nurturing, Growth, and Hope."
On the steps below,
moaning in supplication,
the beggar sits before
a small tin pot
into which the deposit
of even yī  jiǎo (一 角)
makes a terrible racket.
Is Heaven helping
to amplify the sound
back on earth?
But who hears?
There are so few
coins in the pot!

Now the black plastic bag
has floated downstream
and I sit on a bench
in front of Carrefour
contemplating a silver-haired couple
in a Paris cafe,
big glasses of vin rouge
on a table before them,
le baguette, fromage ...
There is something
almost biblical
about the scene
if you replace the cheese
with a fish.
I eat the pastry I bought inside
the big French-style market in Shanghai
but it sticks to my fingers like glue.
The scene is jiǎ, false.
I don't think the Chinese
have gotten the idea.
by Louis Martin