“jia you” by Jane Shi

jia you[1]

putin marches chinese soldiers across shanghai streets.
fear the Uighur terrorists, juima warns me,
and no sooner, street stands steaming with nan and kebab
fold into the hollow sprawls of massage parlours, german furniture stores,
french bakeries, italian pubs, American sex toy shops,
local shoe shops doubling as sunday school, real
massage parlours, a lego construction of western carpets
and han ornaments. disappeared.

students tell each other before gaokao[2]: “jiayou.”
mothers tell their children before gaokao: “jiayou.”
thick wallets tell their diasporic offspring before AP economics: “jiayou.”

translation: build pipelines transporting oil between Skovorodino and Daqing
translation: build pipelines transporting greed and colonialism across Turtle Island

rupture water with oil.
drink oil-flavoured bbt with the thick straw of a gun barrel.
brush your teeth with bitumen paste, rinse
rinse
repeat.

extract it from skin browner than ours.
take it, drink it. until the sun never dares set
on our civilized, meddling kingdom.
yellow powder amalgamated with sheens of white–
xiaojie the fairest in the land. a quick nod,
scorching back scratcher: got you covered.
advancing grades, following orders, guaihaizi marching westward
until we lose ourselves between the failure of 89%
and the success of swearing allegiance to the queen
(making the last payment on the mortgage). filial, determined,
loyal to the very end.

there would be no chinese faces protesting pipelines that day.
I wonder if we’d need to drink poison from these waters we
steal from to see the filth on our hands. but
you cannot bribe a river to love you, forgive you,

no. not today.
because the Yangtze remembers the poppies that poisoned,
the villages evacuated, the children sold, the maozedongs and
elizabeths laundered exchanged transported.
just so little xingxing could go to school.
just so little favourite grandchild could have a better life.
just so we never have to talk about 49, 66-76, 89 tucked between
the eights in our addresses and phone numbers,
the ones and zeros of our pockets. just so.

you tell me,
“jia you.” but how can you
when you do not know the name of this river. when
you do not know where your bones will be buried.
when you have crushed your veins between big data and the sea.

just so we never have to talk about
what we pretend not to know.

​a bottle of cooking oil, crushed by a tank.


[1] jia you means “add oil,” another way to say “good luck”

[2] gaokao is the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, a prerequisite exam to get into higher education in the People’s Republic of China

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