Superman in China

The theater's cold, half full
of kids and their folks
bundled in hats and coats.
Before the lights dim,
we draw the usual stares.
We're foreigners, Nimen de Meiguo
"We're your American friends"—
and we've come to see the American
Man of Steel, Chao Ren, and Lois
glide like gods over Miss Liberty
and the decadent city below.

The dubbing's lovely, Brando's Jorell
intoning like a Chinese Moses.
Then, of course, scenes of crime,
essential to any image of the States.
The Big Bomb goes boom, California
comes unglued. Death of Lois.
A grieving Superman reverses
Earth's orbit, reverses time,
saves his secret love
saves us all from doom.

We stroll out to a sooty afternoon,
streets flowing with cyclists,
manic Chinese cabbies in Nissans.
An old man squats by his dozen
geraniums. Nin hao—"Hello!"—
we say to his toothless grin,
his eyes a bright forever in the sun.
And for a moment there's no America,
no Superman, just us waiguo ren,
"outside-country-persons," chatting
in bad Chinese with this lao ren
and his baskets of red flowers,
who's waited for us on his noisy,
tree-lined street in Tianjin
two thousand years.

Ed Harkness | Mudlark No. 13
Contents | On Reading of the Hanging of Benjamin Moloise in South Africa