Meter Monday: "Jinan"
by Oriana Tang
for Pang Pu
My grandfather is used to smog, the days
so humid heat curls off the pavement
like smoke. Here, children cross the streets
with masks pressed over mouths. They say now
expectant mothers cup their bellies like handfuls
of water, afraid babies will spill over. The city
pulses. Here is the pet shop, the mangy dogs
that try to bite our hands, the toothless man
who reaches out to clasp my arm, rattling
his cup of coins. The smell of overripe
fruit and gasoline leaking under every wall.
At night, my grandfather unlatches
every window. We listen to passing cars, the crackle
of neighborhood televisions. My grandfather leans
over the coffee table with a crossword puzzle,
trying on his English. This city presses
brittle fingers to its mouth, yearns to contain
the hunger that swells inside. Through the windows
we trace no stars—but even in the clasp
of darkness we can see the buildings, blinking
still, the strings of headlights groping down the roads.
This work was previously published in PANK.