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ALI ALIZADEH


Americans


The girl upstairs has packed her living-room
with would-be disciples or so the thuds

rattling our ceiling indicate. I’m sure
I can detect them singing a hymn to the tune of

Beethoven’s number 9, this buzzing
of shrill, discordant noise. We’re trying to play

cards, drink vodka, live decadent and godless
down here (happily close to Hades). Do-it-yourself

congregation of Chinese ESL students, not
clandestine as one would expect in this ‘secularist’

‘Oriental Tyranny’. These Evangelicals
imported to the mainland to teach the language

of ‘cultural exchange’ ( = US$) but instead
converting confused youths en mass. I wonder

whatever happened to the Central Realm’s
classic opposition to the cancer of religion

predating Communism. Cancer? Opium
may be more apt – but listen to the Alabaman

conducting the chorus of the Saved upstairs.
She’s meant to be teaching diction, syntax

for fuck’s sake. I grunt. You grin, discard
your last card and win the game. OK, I’m sorry

to be such an intransigent atheist; but I just can’t
stomach morons spreading their beliefs, politics

and bad singing with impunity. Did you know
missionaries like our musical neighbour got

their heads lopped off during the Boxers’ Uprising?
You sip your vodka-and-orange, deal the cards, laugh

off my bloodlust. I arrange my hand, realise that
I’ll lose this game too, and wonder what it’d take

to shut the Yank up or to compel the Chinese
to resume beheading impudent, tone-deaf barbarians.