Allegory of Bitterness

A flower once bloomed of sunset hue, golden with youthful potential, rosy with hopes, dreams, ambitions. To the east a red sun burned fields of violet and green, until they were no more but ash and embers. In pity or in fear, the earth released the flower from her soft embrace, and beckoned the wind to carry the child far, far away, to a land where she would be poor, trampled, but safe from blood-red fire. The wind died on a distant shore, and the flower was alone. Her petals were dull in colour now, their edges torn, but she lay gazing at the open water in search of the wind whose silence mirrored her own emptiness. Rain began to fall just as she began to wonder whether flowers could weep.

Note: Before we deem another as hopelessly bitter, before we frown and think, “Why can’t they look on the bright side?” do keep in mind that tragedy befalls more people than we can ever know, and some may never recover from that fateful blow.


Goodbye, Grandma

A warm woolen sweater feels warmer still when it’s wrapped around the soft warmth of 婆婆. We sit in a silence formed over years of missing one another; words fall to rest quietly through the minutes and hours, reminiscent of the years spent apart; I wonder if she is really sitting beside me. The lines on her hand trace a map of memories, and the lines on her face are smile lines and age lines, but perhaps some are ripples where tears used to gather some time ago. “Be good, be kind,” she murmurs as I hug her close, and for a moment I wonder if I could go with her, to board that waiting plane, that I might awaken to the familiar weight of her at my bedside as I used to when time seemed to stretch on for us forever. The moment ends, as all moments do, and I watch as she hobbles away with the slightest childlike spring to her steps that I remember so well. She does not look back, and I am glad she does not see my frozen frame and sparkling eyes.

Note: 婆婆 means maternal grandma in Chinese.

Tracing Words and Faces

Fingertips brush a frozen smile locked in time. Between two figures faded into a background of time and forgetfulness, a space remains that has only grown and burned away, unraveled, dissolved all that once meant everything—like photographs set aflame, like fraying childhood sweaters eaten away by moths, like words written in the sand after the tide comes. Indeed, the tide always comes, but we trace the words all the same. Sunlight on photo paper mimics the blankness of morning, the sweet clarity that blurs all nightmares of reality. Sunlight on photo paper takes away the colour of smiling faces, just as two faces that once knew love blush no longer when crossroads meet and separate. Hold my hand, hold my gaze, will you, love? Just to feel that peculiar sensation when memory fades.

Dreaming in Periwinkle

Sedimentary cliffs rise from morning fog, cloaked in mist and adorned with emerald and olive foliage. The sheer rock blushes at her nudity, as fingers of light caress her face; for a moment you wonder if perhaps the touch of dawn has eroded the cold, brittle surface over the years. The moon still hovers in the periwinkle sky, haloed in ghostly light—a mirage of dawn. Cool dew glitters on blades of grass, still as crystals fallen from the hands of nymphs. The fragrance of dew on clover and dandelion drifts through your consciousness as your fingers trace the patterns of chalk-on-pavement clouds, mindlessly, dreamily. In the distance, a river unfurls on a canvas of earth, reflecting the glow of embers from last night’s firewood, tiny illuminations that hover like fireflies before dimming to nothingness.

Tracing Clouds

The fragrance of wildflowers smells sweeter on spring’s final day. The last afternoon of cool breezes kissed with sun, the last night of moonlight touched with rain. Willow fronds beckon you to come closer, plead with you not to go, as your eyes glisten with sudden emotion. You trace the clouds with your eyes, searching with your ears the soft melodies of songbirds. Why do seconds pass so quickly? Must we run out of time so soon? You turn towards the fading sunset light for a promise of youth, a promise of eternity, but find only silence in the shifting sky. Feeble starlight glints in the east, a celestial mirror of wishes unfulfilled.

The Glass Maiden

Fingers of rain tap softly on her windowsill, beckoning her to step barefoot onto wet cobblestone, to feel the threads of cotton in her threadbare gown dissolve to glass. If glass slippers were made of rain-drenched socks, perhaps she would meet her fate at midnight in the rain—but not tonight. The weight of ten thousand storm clouds rests upon her eyelids; a weightless heaviness has taken hold of her heart, and a shifting stillness reigns. The night does not end so early though, and soon the fragrance of rain has seeped into her dreams, filling her thoughts with autumnal coolness. Her cooling thoughts begin to cool her blood, and as her shallow breaths grow shallower still, she feels a winter frost kiss her cheeks. The rain is lighter now, the heartbeat of the sky not as audible, and in the distance the moon rises above a sea of grey. Moonlight shimmers on her ghostly pallor, and on the cobblestone paths below her window, a passing figure sees a maiden of glass.

Distance Grows

Cold pavement and even colder wind. I close my eyes to the kiss of winter as crystals of frost fly from bare branches onto my eyelashes. Soft red wool passes between my fingers as I wring my hands in the warm fabric, counting down seconds with clouds of unsaid words and bated breath. The cold is seeping into my lungs, stoking blue fire that burns my eyes. A tear falls, to cool my brimming eyes, no doubt. Why else do tears fall? Footsteps grow louder and my head lifts as it always does when the familiar footfalls sound in my ears. Our heads lift, our eyes meet, our gazes fall, and our guards rise. So this is how distance grows.

Thinking in Indigo

Indigo sky and muted light. Strokes of silver behind veils of clouds; tides awash in moonlight mimic the mottled sky as they lap at banks of sparkling sand. In the grey glow of an unknown hour each shifting grain remembers the days of old, when their multitude formed not beaches of white but cliffs that touched the first rays of dawn. Time erodes all. The sand stills in solemn reminiscence. Flames of gold flicker in the eastern skies; if the winds give their blessing, some crystals upon that empty beach might touch those sunbeams still, only to realize the once-familiar touch of dawn now carries no memory of the cliffs that once kissed the hands of heaven.

Hopper in Red

Whites and greens dulled to beige; who knew neon lights could be so dim? Fluorescent blue illuminates a single figure, facing towards rows of faded photographs. The floor tiles are scuffed and the seats are bent to mimic the spine’s natural curve—yet they appear unnatural and cold in their unoccupied state. Colder yet, the night wind sweeps through the open door, setting a pile of folded menus aflutter; a casual read for hungry ghosts, and an unfailing source of paper cuts for the living. Wind chimes attached to blood-red bells announce the arrival of no one once again. Somewhere in the back kitchen, a shadow stirs and stills. Feet scuffle, shift, and fall back into sleepy silence. Dinner has been served with a side of autumnal loneliness—a sleeping draught for loveless insomniacs, a restorative for midnight poets. Goodnight Edward, let your fluorescent canvas fade into dreamless sleep.

Thorns and Fallen Petals

If you could listen to sunlight, you would hear chimes struck softly, one by one, their weightless notes dancing on the forest floor. If your feet could feel the forest floor the way your heart can feel each thrum of anticipation, each pang of heartbreak, you would feel the tremors of the earth, dew of tears unwept, fallen petals of dreams blown away. Ancient scars hurt still, as you would know if you brushed your fingers along the bark of trees long hardened by the passage of time. A drop of blood falls from your fingertip, tracing the tracks of blood shed by other beings long before you, blood so forgotten it has lost its red hue and now flows, imperceptible, in torrents of rain. Blink. Blink again. Something in your eye. Blood—no—a tear, but in the sunset light spilling between weeping clouds of deepest grey it looks as red as the drying tracks on your splintered skin.