Old Shanghai in Paris by Sarah Zhang

Old Shanghai in Paris

Like easing out of the body
into sleep, what it was –

early dimming glow and steaming cattail fluff.
He talked about it to me anyways, carved lines holding
stories in his face. What it was –

Classic signs along Nanjing Road,
and killing the night with joie de vivre.

It was winning your first bar by cheating
its owner in a dice game on Blood Alley –
of sweaty linen and paraffin stoves.

Hookers grifting the crowd, while slummers
jig to gypsy jazz from balalaika bands, and
crying into your vodka beside
a Russian boulevardier.

It was loose talk lips, all of life’s mutations
hiding behind the city’s vertebrae,
hanging out of trolley cars,
swilling Japanese rotgut whisky;

It was emptying pockets of change for the
drunk-throated crooner,

local Chinese kids with
flat-cap berets playing jianzi, strapped for sweets

beside cheap taxi dance girls
stripped for cash. It was being wreathed

in blue smoke of poppy, dwelling
on boiled down dregs of others
for three copper coins.

It was inhabited by ghosts,
dissolving into the sockets of bones.


Sarah Zhang is a Chinese-American living in the Philippines. Surrounded by a community filled with diversity, Sarah aims to share the vivid aspects of her cultures through her poetry. Her works have been accepted in Eunoia Journal, Daphne Review, K’in Literary Journal, Heritage Review, Lunch Ticket, Trouvaille Review, Cathartic Literary Magazine, WEIGHT Journal and more; she has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Hollins University, and Saint Mary’s College.

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