He exists. On the red & blue mats under the lights
of a city he leaps a fluorescent arc, teeth grinding
in hurt pride even when he knows we love him.
My little friend, the daughter of his swindling employer swears
he is no more than nineteen. I try not to think of it at times of cruelty,
when his eyes and his hands and his financial reality go abusive.
Four thousand a month in Shenzhen amounts to
nothing, means survival within seams, necessitates
tact and thick skin. At nineteen his years
cling to him like the baby-fat on his cheeks, squat,
possessive, undiminished by sun or hunger or poverty.
Survival instincts. Has he any? When I see him he exists—
humbly, translucently, surreptitiously, driven
by a condensation of time and space and dignity. He shrugs,
shoulders lean and heavy and waist bleached by a year of
air-conditioning. Sunday siestas I dream about him. In his apartment
that he shares with four others like him we curl into an orb
of efficiency, our existences shattered into many pieces
for convenient storage. Our chests rise and fall in sync until
he stops breathing. Could he exist? He is more orthodox
than my father but he swears in his spare time also.
He leaps an arc as beautiful as any narrative.
He props his legs against my leg, when I fall
they bounce me back up without mercy. On the red
& blue mats of the city choking with laughter
& disgrace he refuses to look at me.
When I touch him he starts shrinking.