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SHANGHAI TRAFFIC (poem) - Thomas McCarthy - Ireland - Poetry International
 
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SHANGHAI TRAFFIC
Morning traffic makes excuses at every changing light.
Now the whole world is jealous of Shanghai, humming
And hawing, purring and growling. One heart beats faster
As it runs the red, a double-decker bus screams with rage:
A spluttering of outrage, a fit of blue peak. There is only
One life, you fool, the conductor says, as he pummels
The green bonnet of something smaller than mankind.
This morning the whole world should be one Shanghai,
Quick-witted, light-footed, like the handsome young novelists
Having cocktails at the Glamour Bar, beautiful as Shanghai
That turns its proud head to foreigners, not caring a damn
As the fish rise in the canal seine-net, as the scholar turns
To split an atom. I turn into the Nanking Road and find
A sheet of luminescent Venetian glass, colours of agave
And opal, texture of oriental cloth upon the window of morning,
Upon the face of my Lord Byron. Traffic like this is worth it –
Worth it to have so many humans in the nest of life together.
Though these are mostly the swollen lights and embarrassed tails
Of saloon and estate Fords, of aluminium grills, forgotten marques,
Stray Bentleys and garaged ZV plates. A mist of life,
An apron of colour, a human luminescence, levitates over
The asphalt of Shanghai. Here, the sin of the world is bleached
With business. It is history that the traffic circles round,
History that pulls the night-grill from its earth-lock and begins
To trade. Such morning traffic: here in Shanghai it teaches me
improvisations of perfect form, the beginnings of
Yeatsean music, a shadow disturbed, the colour of beautiful.