The first night, I thought stray dogs were fucking in the streets.
But after leaving the motel in the morning, I saw a pit bull
Circling in a small wire cage next to the coffee vending machines.
White is the color of mourning, the cheeks of tree sparrows
In branches on Tiananmen Square’s border, the long line of tourist
T-shirts twisting away from the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, the lies
About undercover agents eavesdropping on conversations
That commonsense says happen far from where the Chairman
Stews in formaldehyde against his dying wish. Signs in nine languages
But not one mention of the intern who, when pushing embalming
Bloat from the dead man’s face into his neck, broke off a piece
Of his right cheek and replaced it with makeup and Vaseline.
Three paragraphs on the vacuum-sealed crystal casket, and not a word
About the heart and bladder floating in mason jars in the basement.
“It smells like Graceland,” whispers the man behind me in line
As we file up the narrow stairs and exit through the gift shop.
Maybe we place the dead behind glass in an attempt to reflect
Our own images back at ourselves, on top of someone else, because
We long to fall into the body of a stranger like the lost child
In the woods falls asleep beneath the twisting limbs of an elm?
The sale of death is like the sale of sex, like the massage parlors
Across from the motel, where on the second night I learn the crowd
Gathers in the florescent glow of the display windows to watch
One dog lock its jaws into the snout of another, while the showcased
Girls sit cross-legged in white boxes on the linoleum floor, slurping
Instant noodles from Styrofoam bowls. The death whine is heard
For blocks around when it rises up from deep in the bait dog’s belly.