by Celina Su
Seeing Like a State
Beijing, July 2005
If there were an aerial view, we would be these new ants on the hill, hailing from the Mongolian Wild West, trailing into different construction sites. Trying to become Olympic. Tiny speck workers, clearly not on spec. Would rather partake in a trade deficit, any day. No papers, nor what to write on them:
They told me it was an organized enterprise.
I came to the Beijing coast to fall off a cliff of a building—
I walked east to marry a new woman, leave my old one behind.
I knew I would never see her again, and she—
I squat on shared toilets, crisscrossed planks over pits of shit. I transform them into big ring roads.
So ill-distributed, these plights of fancy—
I came here to look at the pale giants who live in the cities—
They all rise half a meter taller than me—
I write my red story on a piece of white cardboard and sit on the sidewalk,
watch them crowd around me—
They stand around, whisper bitter nothings amongst themselves.
The rolling Rs at the ends of their words make my bowels tremble,
Whether for emptiness, or in bile. Then make no mistake, these mistakes we can only—
Well, then. There are no aerial views, only fragmenting bodies. I see them from the inside, pink and iridescent heliotrope, flecked by black, curdled. If the forbidden cityscape corporeal, then it is a proper burial, the entrails of the buildings devouring themselves with a vengeance. As if we were the tapeworms living off concrete and steel, tiny parasites so easily erased with digestion, defecation.
Whose rigor mortis, softness in the want of.
Between bars a misnomer, an absolute value, as if only the distance matters. But.
With my referents shifting, peeling off bloody smocks and serrated notions
In these numerous states of distress
I stand on crates to hack passing meat. As if they were sitting ducks
Rather than hurling decapitated cows, speeding, a carcass every 3 seconds
Or 4. On feces-
Coated downward slopes. As if remittances constitute remuneration
For my left elbow wearing away. From slicing my shoulder
Bits of tenderloin.
The attending says. I have an enlarged heart. A big heart? A big heart of heavy metals. Oh precious.
Enlarged hearts mean shorter life expectancies. You know what they say:
Almost inured, nice guise. We are finished first.
My enumerated value no less. Slab me silly. If capital flies then why clip these wings of toil.
Border crossing or birth canal. Render me further, farther,
A packed cipher:
If this place is what you call yours, then
Better to have grown hearts and sliced them
Than to have hemorrhaged at all.
The Following are Proposed Facticities:
Between you and me, larceny is da bomb.
Advocacy cannot be fair and balanced, only weighed.
The plasticity of his policies can be measured by pork barrels.
Social forces won’t keep me from my newly laced bootstraps.
All capitalists are bloodsuckers, supplying demand for first cities.
Her heresy is committed with the sound of one hand flinching.
Your veracious mendacities flop like giant manatees. O the humanity.
My hypocrisy can be cured via daily injections of hypercrisy.
Indignities are in the eyes of the indigenous.
Moccasins without socks don’t look so good. Really.
I wear cheap peasantries, sweatshop-embroidered blouses.
Facilities with identity formation render me the same.
Your pumped up fallacy has achieved a new, shiny allure.
My leprosy is a figurative force, attached to the nerves.
Modesty prevents her from linebreaking on the streets.
Doctors compare phalluses to clitorises, & gender millimeters.
Your majesty’s colorblindness is a guise, or a disguise.
Between legitimacy and co-optation, a fine crash pad.
Participatory democracy is an endless meeting.
Whimsy me citizen, human, or just barely so.
The Incessant of Travel
Day 1. In Phnom Penh, unraveled. Open arms, open plains. These terrains where the nations united do not pretend to keep peace. Here, the brutal face lies not in the panopticon, but in my own ability to turn the other cheek. Then, to the other side. I do it one more time, and faster. I have managed to just say no, just like Nancy would have wanted me to.
What would Jesus buy? A panoply of incandescent sins, a high percentage of missing limbs. Succulent mines—
Night 2. I ride to them in darkness, without any street or bicycle lights amidst the trees. I hear the neighbors’ steel wheel spokes only when they whoosh past me. I get there before dawn. A voice tells me that someone will steal my bicycle, unless he watches it for me. I tell this one-metered silhouette my name, promise a very small reward in return.
A dozen hours later, two dozen street kids rush towards me. “Celina, I watched your bicycle!” “No, it was me, Celina. I watched your bicycle!” What would apsaras buy? Shoes for the five-year-old postcard peddlers, iced glass bottles of saudade. Fleetingly, bitter sweets for a state of grace, only, missing the—
Week 3. The kids plead me to cut out this hole. Hard water, kidney stones, and infant melamine, sight unseen. It was like the last wound, but in reverse, its transient contours all the more searing. To fathom the magnitude, to count each as each before me, pulling at my skirt, holding my hands, to recognize the pan-epic. The difference between a module and a nodule an interstitial slash, malignance made bureaucratic.
What could I say? If I can’t get to it, let’s at least color it in. Fetishize the artifice, as if it were. To numb the phantom pain. I come here and not to Buenos Aires because I like the food, especially the tea leaf salad. That some good will come of this. Our pleas without the pretty—
I Wear It Out, Dancing
I am hoping it will render our fullest being. Pressed
Against one another, a metaphor, that which I am closest to
Defined by what I am not. A state of what union.
Our joint ess-ee-ess a homeostatic ooooooh
Sounding off a radio signal of distress.
We go to a skin flick together, we lick moisture,
We strip twirling like apple peels. My shoulders barest.
His eyes lash out against the tops of my cheeks.
I graft our lips together, ashes to ashes, I skin my ashy knees
Chasing after him, the skin between us thin, salty
Like enslaved hypertension. I skin my head,
Shampoo my senses, enshroud them in stamina.
We laugh until our skins weep sweat,
He sweeps my dead skin cells off my feet. Spackle us,
Cleanse me with bleach. I sparkle like vitiligo.