Two Stars, a Broken Bowl and a Dead Woman
两颗星 一只破碗 一个女人
Two lonely glitters gazing at each other in the eastern sky
Have had a long night, and now they are
Evaporating, fading out.
I am on this overpass, eyes fixed at them,
Like the butterfly palm souring up from below.
The dazzling flow coming up, the red one of cars and trucks going away.
I am a safety island, in the air but not afloat,
Human figures may flow past me.
This poem comes,
Without any harbinger, without an orbit to follow.
Relativity is all in causalities.
I am a dot, and any dot can relate to me
And claim a line, for any two dots form a line;
We can be any stars….
Early morning, I am standing on an overpass (a point of departure),
Gazing at two very bright stars. I am a body without spirit,
Not knowing the names of the stars.
I think of you, thinking you are perhaps still in a dream, lying or coiling up,
Or it is overcast outside or there is only a borderless haze.
Now as you read this, you see what I see and feel what I feel,
You and I become paired as mutually strange mates,
Damon and Pythias, Two faces of Janus, Calypso and Odysseus,
Galatea and Pygmalion, Dorian Gray and the portrait, or Hyde and Jekyll,
But neither of us knows the other’s face.
There are things we know that can only exist in the unknown space.
Two passengers boarding different boats from the same dock,
Shoulders rub, and they pass,
Turning back, casting a glimpse of deja vu upon the squirming heads.
Someone picks that up,
No words, no nodding recognition.
If there have happenings between us,
They’ve come to pass and gone.
A Porcelain Bowl with Blue Motifs
We had a blue porcelain bowl, and I was too young
To ask how old it was and how long it had been with us.
Its lightning-like crack was cemented by ash-colored glaze,
Riveted with six brass thumbtacks, their bold yellowness
Adding metal richness to the blue-and-white.
Among all the chinaware, only this broken bowl
Had a stately high-class quality to serve at the New Year Eve dinner
The roasted pork cubes with bamboo shoots
Around which we six siblings stared like little wolves.
The local parlance was that we were a shoal, not a pack.
I was time and again chastened for rapping bowls with chopsticks,
Because that was an act of railing at the heavens.
That the heavens are made of bowls is crystal clear in the harvest season,
When the sky is full of shards of porcelain, and we call it “tile blue.”
Never has anyone said that a star is the life breath of a soul on earth,
But I was told everyone will go there to claim his or her unbreakable bowl.
All the roads I had walked on were white narrow lanes
Between brown soil shoulders, where wild flowers bloomed day after day.
Footprints appeared among the flowers and dung,
And distinct for several days;
Flowers might be eaten but never be pinched off.
At nine, I fell for a big girl in the other end of the village,
When people began forgetting me as “a snotty dragon”
And when she was taken away, tears in her eyes, by a group
Of happy strangers, I hid myself from sweet-treated kids, crying
Behind a stack of cornstalks, the last time my snivel running across my mouth.
Three years later, I learned that her tears at leaving home were expected
As part of the ritual, to show her grief at departing from parental love;
And that year she was married off again, after one-year mourning.
For the second time, she did not shed a tear, as required, too, by culture,
And I did not either, not even upon the news of her ugly suicide
When the year drew toward the end.
Imagination Becomes Cheating
Between a broken porcelain bowl and a long-ended life,
There is not much relationship.
I am between them, surviving, to fill the immense emptiness
With drops of memory, like two stars trying to anchor the heavens.
I, an incidental star-gazer, think of you, and of the one
Who is reading this poem, out of destabilized order of time and space.
I can convince myself of the truth of imagination,
And then that was when her neck was cracking broken
That our bowl was broken to pieces beyond repair.
Is this fit for a poem? This mysterious thrill?
Possibility may not be discarded as a willful deception.
The truth is I have no further memory of the bowl,
When it was broken again, it was beyond mending,
Or no mending for the mended at all.
I remember a proverb that bowls grow fewer
As a family prospers, and we grow to hope
That a new page is open at every New Year dinner.
April 29-May 3, 2009