In China, you can go to Mass
in a French-built, crumbling church,
and not be shorted.
For every bundle of golden paper
bought to make a money offering
at a crumbling Buddhist hut,
there’s a flashing Catholic light
on the string around the tabernacle.
And the priest is real. Both Rome and
prison in his past, he is old and smiling,
eager for Latin–declensions at his tea,
though today he eats gruel, his mouth
enflamed by his beautiful teeth,
which he bought last week for fifty kwai,
the price of hiring a taxi.
In Sichuan © Robert Meier