welcome to taipei
smell the wet air
thick with car, motorcycle, bus fumes
step into the subway
feel the thick heat of thousands of bodies that have pulsed through
look away from the eyes
there are too many of them
but they are all differing degrees of bright
once upon a time children
now shadows of children that are hiding
hiding behind make-up and heels,
suits, vests, and bags
hiding behind poverty stricken grime and loud begging cries,
prostitute women shy yet brazen leaning against the bridge
welcome to taipei
raise your arm above your head
hold on tight as the bus rattles over the bumpy roads
stopping often to avoid hitting the thousands of reckless fast others
biking, motorcycling, walking, and driving
feel the bodies pushing and pulling against your own
and hold your breath when the door opens
and someone steps in smelling like cigarettes
the smell of the wet pavement rising up behind him
well, might as well step out now then
and smell this wet pavement
rich with too many years of too many feet and vehicles
wonder about what lies beneath the pavement
raise your head to look beyond the buildings
and watch the clouds reaching and pulling towards and away
from the tall mountains
some soft some jagged
so far, too far in the distance
imagine the echoes of monkeys howling
close your eyes yes even on this dirty street corner and
see ancient spirits living in holes in rocks in caves in mountains
mountains so old that even here in this city
there are shrines honoring the mountains spirits and earth gods
say yes to the grandmother that offers you some incense
she gives you three sticks of incense
one for the sky god, one for the earth god, and one for the god of the present moment
smell all the years of incense trapped in this one little room
all the smoke wafting and billowing up into the red rafters coloring them a dark blood red
closed eyes again, seeing the blood of my own body coursing through into my heart
feeling the pulsing of my feet hard against this cement-layered earth
feeling lava pushing way down below my feet
so far below
but it once created this very island we stand upon
welcome to taipei, taiwan
sit upon these old stone steps with me now and watch the sun rise
it first hits that tall skyscraper over there
and then the light bounces over to that other skyscrapers over there
until eventually we can see the reflection of big red circular mister sun himself reflected on that skyscraper far over there
and the birds will sing louder and louder
until eventually they all get drowned out by the motor vehicles’ songs
welcome to taipei
watch the faces of the thousands of people passing by and listen to their little songs
the gate guard sings a native american chant as he bikes to his post
a customer returns day after day to a shop. they are friends now
the schoolboys walk fast and chatter even faster. something is so very exciting.
the women’s voices are high pitched, their skirts even higher pitched.
an old couple walking hand in hand, him carrying her purse and umbrella, her laughing at his jokes.
couples at night all over the old temple, watching the lights of a city that doesn’t quite sleep.
faces with scarves that show only the eyes. walking fast. going somewhere incredible.
browned farmers at farmer stands everyday with loud voices and fresh fruits.
bus driver that says peace be with you, and you are blessed. gentle eyes in the mirror.
old women dancing all the same dance in the park, saying come join us, and welcome.
the eyes of a baby in the subway, shining, laughing, innocent, curious, and amused.
welcome newborn one, welcome to taipei.
here, enjoy this cup of fresh tea.