The Ninth Archive

E号-P002

The River

The sky is grime and haze lit by a half open red eye,
crisscrossed by cables swaying from skyscrapers and
yellow towers of scaffold. The east bank stirs,
staccato laughter of men, horns from human-driven
taxis, the warning klaxons of foundries vacating a
gray dross gleaming with nanites into the waters of the
Wusong, where the current’s arms will bear it in slow
pilgrimage past the curtained museum, the abandoned
courthouse, the Waibaidu bridge where it gathers in
magnetized nets beneath the gray stone of the
PIDC memorial, its silhouette like a charcoal drawing
against the antelucan horizon. A panhandler leans
against it, sweating though the sun has not yet risen,
his cigarette glowing, bearing chemicals made in
foundries to a starving blood, his breath rising to stain
the windows on the hundredth floors of towers where men
collude with machines to transform the air into information.
Further west, where plane trees form an
overgrown circle at the water’s edge, early-morning
haunt of stray cats and those who wandered too far
from streetlights, once perhaps a park where children
from the now-shuttered and quarantined residence
towers played, a man stands up to his knees in
weeds holding an engagement ring, diamond dipped
in black ink, and places it upon the water with the
tenderness of closing the eyelids of a loved one,
bowing as the stream carries it from Wusong
to Huangpu, to Yangtze, to the East Sea, to the
Pacific, this token of someone whose body breathes,
whose heart stirs, but whose mind dreams forever.

  • E号-P002