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Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Rookie (Bronxville, New York)

The Great Chinese Dragon


The great Chinese dragon which is the greatest dragon in all the
world and which once upon a time was towed across the
Pacific by a crew of coolies rowing in an open boat—was
the first real live dragon ever actually to reach these shores

And the great Chinese dragon passing thru the Golden Gate
spouting streams of water like a string of fireboats then broke
loose somewhere near China Camp gulped down a hundred
Chinese seamen and forthwith ate all the shrimp in San Francisco Bay

And the great Chinese dragon was therefore forever after confined
in a Chinatown basement and ever since allowed out only for
Chinese New Year’s parades and other Unamerican demonstrations
paternally watched-over by those benevolent men in
blue who represent our more advanced civilization which has
reached such a high state of democracy as to allow even a
few barbarians to carry on their quaint native customs in our midst

And thus the great Chinese dragon which is the greatest dragon
in all the world now can only be seen creeping out of an
Adler Alley cellar like a worm out of a hole sometime during
the second week in February every year when it sorties out
of hibernation in its Chinese storeroom pushed from behind
by a band of fortythree Chinese electricians and technicians
who stuff its peristaltic accordion-body up thru a sidewalk
delivery entrance

And first the swaying snout appears and then the eyes at ground
level feeling along the curb and then the head itself casting
about and swayingand heaving finally up to the corner of
Grant Avenue itself where a huge paper sign proclaims the
World’s Largest Chinatown

And the great Chinese dragon’s jaws wired permanently agape as
if by a demented dentist to display the Cadmium teeth as the
hungry head heaves out into Grant Avenue right under the
sign and raising itself with a great snort of fire suddenly proclaims
the official firecracker start of the Chinese New Year

And the lightbulb eyes lighting up and popping out on coiled wire
springs and the body stretching and rocking further and
further around the corner and down Grant Avenue like a
caterpillar rollercoaster with the eyes sprung out and waving
in the air like the blind feelers of some mechanical preying
mantis and the eyes blinking on and off with Chinese red
pupils and tiny bamboo-blind eyelids going up and down

And here comes the St. Mary’s Chinese Girls’ Drum Corps and
here come sixteen white men in pith helmets beating big bass
drums representing the Order of the Moose and here comes
a gang of happy car salesmen disguised as Islam Shriners
and here comes a chapter of the Order of Improved Red Men
and here comes a cordon of motorcycle cops in crash helmets
with radios going followed by a small papier-mâché lion fed
with Nekko wafers and run by two guys left over from a
Ten-Ten festival which in turn is followed by the great
Chinese dragon itself gooking over balconies as it comes

And the great Chinese dragon has eaten a hundred humans and
their legs pop out of his underside and are his walking legs
which are not mentioned in the official printed program in
which he is written up as the Great Golden Dragon made in
Hong Kong to the specifications of the Chinese Chamber of
Commerce and he represents the force and mystery of life
and his head sways in the sky between the balconies as he
comes followed by six Chinese boy scouts wearing Keds and
carrying strings of batteries that light up the dragon like a
nighttime freeway

And he has lain all winter among a heap of collapsed paper
lanterns and green rubber lizards and ivory backscratchers
with the iron sidewalk doors closed over his head but he has
now sprung up with the first sign of Spring like the force of
life itself and his head sways in the sky and gooks in green
windows as he comes

And he is a monster with the head of a dog and the body of a
serpent risen yearly out of the sea to devour a virgin thrown
from a cliff to appease him and he is a young man handsome
and drunk ogling the girls and he has high ideals and a
hundred sport shoes and he says No to Mother and he is a
big red table the world will never tilt and he has big eyes
everywhere thru which he sees all womankind milkwhite and
dove-breasted and he will eat their waterflowers for he is the
cat with future feet wearing Keds and he eats cake out of
pastry windows and is hungrier and more potent and more
powerful and more omnivorous than the papier-mâché lion
run by the two guys and he is a great earthworm of lucky life
filled with flowing Chinese semen and he considers his own
and our existence in its most profound sense as he comes and
he has no Christian answer to the existential question even
as he sees the spiritual everywhere translucent in the material
world and he does not want to escape the responsibility of
being a dragon or the consequences of his long horny tail still
buried in the basement but the blue citizens on their talking
cycles think that he wants to escape and at all costs he must
not be allowed to escape because the great Chinese dragon
is the greatest potential dragon in all the world and if allowed
to escape from Chinatown might gallop away up their new
freeway at the Broadway entrance mistaking it for a Great
Wall of China or some other barbarian barrier and so go
careening along it chewing up stanchions and signposts and
belching forth some strange disintegrating medium which
might melt down the great concrete walls of America and
they are afraid of how far the great Chinese dragon might
really go starting from San Francisco and so they have
secretly and securely tied down the very end of his
tail in its
hole
so that
this great pulsing phallus of life at the very end of its parade
at the very end of Chinatown gives ones wild orgasm of a shudder
and rolls over fainting in the bright night street since even
for a dragon every orgasm is a little death

And then the great Chinese dragon starts silently shrinking and
shriveling up and drawing back and back to its first cave
and the soft silk skin wrinkles up and shrinks and
shrinks on its sprung bamboo bones and the handsome
dejected head hangs down like a defeated prizefighter’s and
so is stuffed down again a last into its private place and the
cellar sidewalk doors press down again over the great wilted
head with one small hole of an eye blinking still thru the
gratings of the metal doors as the great Chinese dragon gives
one last convulsive earthquake shake and rolls over dead-dog
to wait another white year for the final coming and the final
sowing of his oats and teeth

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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