angsty rant disguised as poem

This is a poem scrawled in my journal from the upper berth of a hard sleeper carriage aboard the Kunming-Chengdu slow train on 1 February 2015.

There are Times

 

There are times
when China

gets all a bit much.

There are times
when you just need
to get on a train
and go
21 hours,

in the opposite direction.

Yes, there are times.

There are times
when other people
are hell.

Especially Chinese people.

There are times
when you ask
yourself
What the fuck am I doing
here.
But aren’t I,
Chinese

too?

There are times
in a hungover daze, the
breath of cheap Chinese beer

and hair like an ashtray

There are times
when you gag down two revolting baozi and begrudgingly pay and the receptionist was an absolute CUNT (low vocalisation with gravel in voice),
when you gag down a coffee and attempt half a cigarette,
when you clamber into a taxi with all your shit on your back and your front and you shuffle through pointless half assed security checks at a station where a dozen people were slain to death by knife wielding radical extremists from a province of china where people are not

Chinese.

There are times
with ticket checks and hangover eyes and migrant workers with their big bags and queue cutting and plumes of cigarette smoke (no! no more!) and bags and bullshit up the stairs where no one helps anyone and everyone pushes everyone and an old lady is breaking in the middle of the stairs
huffing and puffing with all her shit
and
nobody
fucking

cares.

(SOCIALISM and everyone for them-fucking-selves or get the fuck out the way)

And there are times
you
scramble
scrape
swim
through spit and
stupid saxaphone solos,
and haul your self up
to your coffin
for the next 18 hours

to go home.

There are times
you sit and hope that
no one
tries talking to

you.

There are times
you feel like you want

an invisibility cloak.

There are times
You feel like your skin
is

an invisibility cloak.

There are times
you feel if you are found out
it will all come crashing

down on you

So you scramble to your
1.7 x 70cm coffin
and need to listen
to Connan Mockasin

with noise cancelling headphones.

There are times
when people see your
passport
and stare at your face.
And you think:
Thank Christ
I’m not wearing this
passport

on my face.

There are times
when you are so
unknown
by society
And you become
unknown

to yourself.

The anonymity is
a protective cloak
beneath the wave of
black hair.

This anonymity is
making me
anonymous

to myself.


Postface:

 

In the winter of Jan/Feb 2015, I set it upon myself to backpack alone through the largely rural, undeveloped provinces of Guizhou and Guangxi with the goal of travelling overland from Chengdu to Guangzhou and reunite with my Por Por’s family for Chinese New Year. During this journey, I experienced what I can only describe as an emotional break down – I’d never felt so anxious, trapped or confused in my entire life. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, or where I could go to make myself feel okay. It was an internal, gripping terror tied up with issues of my Chinese, foreign and queer identity.

I found myself in a toxic hostel environment where I was alienated by a group of travellers from all over China, bullied about my Mandarin and laughed at behind my back. In retrospect, they were just ignorant Chinese tourists, but it really felt like rock bottom. I couldn’t believe how badly it had gotten to me, but once you are in that head space nothing feels more real. I escaped (somewhat dramatically) by taking a train 21 hours in the opposite direction, to avoid being tracked to Guangzhou by them. I stayed in Kunming for a few days before returning home to Chengdu and seeking a return to some kind of emotional normality. With the support of friends and family, I slowly emerged from beneath the dark cloud and began to feel better again. After losing all self confidence, I gradually started to try my Mandarin again, and yes, made the journey to Guangzhou.

There’s no moral to this story, no joyous upswing or inspirational saying. But if perhaps having read this makes someone feel a little less anxious, alone or alienated, then it has fulfilled it’s purpose.

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