Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Great Chinese Dragon, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The great Chinese dragon which is the greatest dragon in all the world and which once upon a time was towed across the Pacific by a crew of coolies rowing in an open boat—was the first real live dragon ever actually to reach these shores And the great Chinese dragon passing thru the Golden Gate spouting streams of water like a string of fireboats then broke loose somewhere near China Camp gulped down a hundred Chinese seamen and forthwith ate all the shrimp in San Francisco Bay And the great Chinese dragon was therefore forever after confined in a Chinatown basement and ever since allowed out only for Chinese New Year’s parades and other Unamerican demonstrations paternally watched-over by those benevolent men in blue who represent our more advanced civilization which has reached such a high state of democracy as to allow even a few barbarians to carry on their quaint native customs in our midst And thus the great Chinese dragon which is the greatest dragon in all the world now can only be seen creeping out of an Adler Alley cellar like a worm out of a hole sometime during the second week in February every year when it sorties out of hibernation in its Chinese storeroom pushed from behind by a band of fortythree Chinese electricians and technicians who stuff its peristaltic accordion-body up thru a sidewalk delivery entrance And first the swaying snout appears and then the eyes at ground level feeling along the curb and then the head itself casting about and swayingand heaving finally up to the corner of Grant Avenue itself where a huge paper sign proclaims the World’s Largest Chinatown And the great Chinese dragon’s jaws wired permanently agape as if by a demented dentist to display the Cadmium teeth as the hungry head heaves out into Grant Avenue right under the sign and raising itself with a great snort of fire suddenly proclaims the official firecracker start of the Chinese New Year And the lightbulb eyes lighting up and popping out on coiled wire springs and the body stretching and rocking further and further around the corner and down Grant Avenue like a caterpillar rollercoaster with the eyes sprung out and waving in the air like the blind feelers of some mechanical preying mantis and the eyes blinking on and off with Chinese red pupils and tiny bamboo-blind eyelids going up and down And here comes the St. Mary’s Chinese Girls’ Drum Corps and here come sixteen white men in pith helmets beating big bass drums representing the Order of the Moose and here comes a gang of happy car salesmen disguised as Islam Shriners and here comes a chapter of the Order of Improved Red Men and here comes a cordon of motorcycle cops in crash helmets with radios going followed by a small papier-mâché lion fed with Nekko wafers and run by two guys left over from a Ten-Ten festival which in turn is followed by the great Chinese dragon itself gooking over balconies as it comes And the great Chinese dragon has eaten a hundred humans and their legs pop out of his underside and are his walking legs which are not mentioned in the official printed program in which he is written up as the Great Golden Dragon made in Hong Kong to the specifications of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and he represents the force and mystery of life and his head sways in the sky between the balconies as he comes followed by six Chinese boy scouts wearing Keds and carrying strings of batteries that light up the dragon like a nighttime freeway And he has lain all winter among a heap of collapsed paper lanterns and green rubber lizards and ivory backscratchers with the iron sidewalk doors closed over his head but he has now sprung up with the first sign of Spring like the force of life itself and his head sways in the sky and gooks in green windows as he comes And he is a monster with the head of a dog and the body of a serpent risen yearly out of the sea to devour a virgin thrown from a cliff to appease him and he is a young man handsome and drunk ogling the girls and he has high ideals and a hundred sport shoes and he says No to Mother and he is a big red table the world will never tilt and he has big eyes everywhere thru which he sees all womankind milkwhite and dove-breasted and he will eat their waterflowers for he is the cat with future feet wearing Keds and he eats cake out of pastry windows and is hungrier and more potent and more powerful and more omnivorous than the papier-mâché lion run by the two guys and he is a great earthworm of lucky life filled with flowing Chinese semen and he considers his own and our existence in its most profound sense as he comes and he has no Christian answer to the existential question even as he sees the spiritual everywhere translucent in the material world and he does not want to escape the responsibility of being a dragon or the consequences of his long horny tail still buried in the basement but the blue citizens on their talking cycles think that he wants to escape and at all costs he must not be allowed to escape because the great Chinese dragon is the greatest potential dragon in all the world and if allowed to escape from Chinatown might gallop away up their new freeway at the Broadway entrance mistaking it for a Great Wall of China or some other barbarian barrier and so go careening along it chewing up stanchions and signposts and belching forth some strange disintegrating medium which might melt down the great concrete walls of America and they are afraid of how far the great Chinese dragon might really go starting from San Francisco and so they have secretly and securely tied down the very end of his tail in its hole so that this great pulsing phallus of life at the very end of its parade at the very end of Chinatown gives ones wild orgasm of a shudder and rolls over fainting in the bright night street since even for a dragon every orgasm is a little death And then the great Chinese dragon starts silently shrinking and shriveling up and drawing back and back to its first cave and the soft silk skin wrinkles up and shrinks and shrinks on its sprung bamboo bones and the handsome dejected head hangs down like a defeated prizefighter’s and so is stuffed down again a last into its private place and the cellar sidewalk doors press down again over the great wilted head with one small hole of an eye blinking still thru the gratings of the metal doors as the great Chinese dragon gives one last convulsive earthquake shake and rolls over dead-dog to wait another white year for the final coming and the final sowing of his oats and teeth

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