The Clearer Side of the Road
The day my eyes met with yours, we were almost blinded by each other.
You appeared to me an embossed figure from a still-life,
and could barely speak my tongue,
the first in my remembered life
who had to use so many gestures and facial expressions
to get across something otherwise too simple and routine.
You might as well take my hand and lead me to a site or a sight,
but I guess that would make you feel we went too intimate.
By and by, you said so many memorable sentences
that I might have teased you, repeating once or twice,
and now I have entirely forgotten and regret for not having copied them down
in my exercise books on which I scratched my hair off
for startling collocations and juxtapositions
to make poems.
Poetry, then, was elsewhere, beyond the horizon,
but as time went by, it came closer and closer,
and you realized that you had found it earlier than me
and you kept quiet.
You continued to marvel at me, and into a black spiral bound notebook,
rarely seen at that time, you copied every line I wrote,
from magazines, newsletters and bulletins, and my handwritten carbon copies.
In those years I always thought I would have numerous new starts,
like every New Year’s Resolution,
while the extraordinariness of your words sounded gradually naturalized.
I have nothing left of what you collected, except for your memory
which comes back, on and off, beyond my grasp.
And my memory is, sorry to admit,
leaky. It’s always my mismemory that performs automatic repairs and comforts,
but it can never patch up the loss of your speech.
That is a hole in the air, contracting and extruding like a womb, but no baby comes.
People really die
when they are no longer heard,
and what I quote from you can barely be called truly yours.
Therefore, when I claim that you said these before,
it is me who superimposes and usurps,
not because my words transcend time and space or life and death,
but merely because I still try to be heard after you stopped.
These are your last words, and they become last
only because my current memory and wisdom deems them the most clearly heard
before your silence, and obviously this has significantly shortened your life.
“Many spokes grow at the cross-road under the lamppost’s Quixotic eye,
and very likely you will fall if you go in there.
You will stumble on your own shadows, and when you fall
you will trip up all your shadows too.
So I decide from now on I will walk on the dimmer side of the road,
and my shadows may be thrown onto the roadside bush;
but, you must walk beside me, on the clearer side.
When I lean on you, you have to bear my full weight, unbendingly, unflinchingly,
but only your shadow may fall upon me, gentlemanly.”
April 29, 2008