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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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Claudia Reinhardt

Evening in Shanghai

From the open hotel window, I look across the urban canyon to a gray apartment building, balconies festooned with trousers, silk blouses, embroidered jackets flapping in the dank breeze. A pigeon coop filled with murmuring birds perches on one balcony. As neon lights blossom along the street, cars, trucks, and motorcycles flow like fish sauce through tangled noodles—slow progress punctuated by sputtering engines, jangling horns, whistles of white-gloved police officers. In the alley, an old man squats near a small fire. Smells mingle: hot oil from his cook pot, cigarettes, exhaust, garbage. The odors waft up, floating past the balcony where a thin woman reaches into the cage and grabs a fat pigeon. A snap of her wrist; the pigeon goes limp. Clutching its naked feet, she carries the body inside.

silent pigeons wait
far below growling traffic
pushes back the night