Wednesday words: Hans Magnus Enzensberger


Hong Kong 1997

Have you seen the builders of this city,
illiterate acrobats climbing up skyhigh
on bamboo scaffolding?
Have you bought the cheapest jeans
and slept in the most expensive beds on earth?
Did you cough in the incense-filled temples
and smell the clouds of French perfume
hanging over the sewers?
Have you heard the clatter of gambling dens
and the roar at the stock exchange?
And the tourists, did you notice them
rubbing their eyes, exhausted from shopping,
like giant pink shrimps
behind tinted bus windows?

No. This town, in which a thousand flowers wither,
which has got over its Great Leap Forward
long ago, is beyond belief. It is a phantom,
a portent, a hallucination, a science-fiction opera,
a miraculous fake.

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