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CAS for Database

Dingzhong Ding

Shanghai, China

Shanghai Foreign Language School



For Shanghai

I have to admit I did not know my body                 was trying to drive me this wild

into the city, let alone grow a heart of its                 own. Though to be fair, it grew

tired of waiting, creasing from the stray                 smell of cleaners filthing up the streets.

Let itself slide into pipeline, scissor                sidewalks, writhe up electric

spines, pluck scales from moon              -shimmered waters, scour the banks

for their serpentine sludge,              amphibian bones. And to find them marrowless,

burrows its nose into              the ruby earth to find more arteries hollow. And to think

there was real blood            running beneath this economy of petrified exoskeletons.

Well, nothing here           to replace me with. Nothing new since the last time I was

walked out of bed to         scavenge perfect pavements for aperture. Something

readying a reemergence.         There is none. The city cleans up all too well.

But I know men who will call        this a vanishing experiment before a they call it

a city, who teach their fingers to        point and have, heave and peel. And then drag

cigarettes across the night ether and        halve a full moon, watch it bleed

velveteen sheets into rivers, then howl       at the raw ease with which it is done.

In mornings I wake to a body unhitched       from the aftertaste, almost clean.

I rise to scrape wanderlust off my teeth.      Maybe a full moon ago there was

a thieved city to be salvaged, bone and      hearts to spare. By which I mean,

hearts that reside within, that do not      need to hunt

                                                                 for broken parts.


In “Cleanness,” the body’s search for identity is restless, autonomous. With incisive images of economies of “petrified skeletons” and banks brimming with “serpentine sludge,” Ding paints a visceral portrait of a city that both consumes and is consumed—a hollowed-out vessel that is clean, if only temporarily.


Dingzhong Ding is a writer from Shanghai, China. His work is out or forthcoming with Sine Theta Magazine, Poetry Online, and has been recognized by the National Poetry Society.

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