Burning Bridge

The bai and I walked together. 
It wanted to show me a burning bridge
that snaked nova bright for miles
toward something black and flat in the water.
A throng gathered on the shore in spite
of the furious transformation of matter
into driving columns of smoke
going nowhere, nowhere.
The sky, inseparable from night,
sat atop us. They plotted no stars.
The lashings of ash closed our throats.
I wanted to ask: "Who set the fire"?
The faces of dark figures beside us
leapt to life in the sputtering light.
It could be any of them: the pale lad
whose first love conjured the flame; his first hate
carried it to term. Or the older woman
whose battered heart could no longer double 
as a flotation device. She happened upon
a half-drowned match and kept it for sentiment. 
When the clock hands busily accounting
for someone's easing into age have milled with diligence,
the forgotten cache could loose its sulfurous
kiss upon the world. Or the couple whose child
was born without sense, who was neither
mineral, vegetable, nor animal. Their sorrow
overflowing, a volcanic rupture.
The earth means nothing but a covering,
a torn veil. This the child would never know,
nor the terrible schism of healed souls, 
the sinking of ancient rivers into the very sand
they had made verdant and tall. This is also
a way of being, of remaining whole.
Or maybe they all had a hand in it. 
The bridge could have brought changes.
They would have had to change.
Perhaps. "Where did the bridge lead?"
Does it matter? The long spine, long spurned,
snapped its white whip and broke through the sea.
Silence roared back in shock.
We saw nothing else. Night went on.
It was only an island.
They should have let it remain that way.

A Little Retail

After the singing lesson yesterday, I strolled around the conservatory's neighbourhood and supported a number of indie merchants. Vintage is vastly overpriced in this corner of the world, but it's so difficult to turn down a frock, previously owned or perhaps even designed and made by someone else (most likely deceased by now), which seems to fit your own body almost perfectly. As I tested each large round button in the fitting room, there was a momentary regret of indulgence in pork chops and shortribs, but miraculously, the navy pleated linen gathered where it should and had just enough wiggle to look unforced. The little sailor bow on top made it less conservative though I did wish the hemline weren't so Washington. However, it seemed to be of natural fibers and had polka dots like the far more stringently proportioned red skirt with sharply flared bottom I also picked up. There had been a pale mink evening wrap for quite a good price, but it looked bulkier than is usual for mink, and didn't feel as soft and luxuriant as expected.

I crossed the street with the intention of visiting the fresh spice shop MB and I had eyed for some time. On the way, the charming lettering of the local comic book shop piqued a sudden desire to check up on what Pantheon has been doing since the marvelous "Persepolis". I asked for recommendations from the very nice quasi-hipsters behind the counter and received some good options. The girl wore glasses that were similar to my new frames, but they were a mark more serious. I wondered if she thought it funny that we wore nearly identical glasses. I did. Then again, they were not purchased for originality, but for the practical consideration that they could actually fit around the upward swoop of my cheekbones. She ate a bowl of cereal while I deliberated. It could not be identified through its wan oatmeal colour or generic nuggettish shape. There was no discernible scent either. This was strangely disconcerting. As much as modern foods are overly fumed with esters and other articulations of artifice, it's disturbing when food appears to be little more than a pellet of energy, where scent, taste, and form are nearly invisible.

The spice store was the perfect antidote. The combined aromas of their thousand-strong stock greeted one suddenly when turning the corner, as sirenic as the peace and quiet of their lovingly maintained courtyard of fountains, cobblestones, and grape arbors. I asked for $10 worth of truffle salt, unable to forget the beyond-delicious truffle burger from a few weeks before. It arrived in a slim plastic packet and undoubtedly perfumed the contents of the purse all the way home. I put a little of it into the guacamole last night. It was probably not the right dish for it, but the scent remains heavenly, especially in concert with copious garlic. All these experiences were about indulgences of impulses, where there is little restraint or caution, but much reversion to the most basic way of being. Yet, they were welcome after such an austere drought.

At another time, I must record the incident of another providential (if not exactly angelic) meeting at a moment of utter frustration and despair. This one involved a white lab coat on the day of Carmageddon, which when I write out thus, sounds a touch silly, but it did inspire much gratitude and reflection.


 I took the lift up to the stone and bamboo fourth floor where you rented out a house, if not a home. I forgot all about this dream until a machine restored it from a less volatile memory. Regardless, you remain as unknowable as before, as if we had never met again or all that anguish before and after your sudden disappearance into the earth had never burnt through the wool. Sometimes, I miss you though I didn't like you much. It is as if some giant ripped out a pillar from this house and everything fell out. Mother mentioned the pact you made when I was still in swaddling clothes. Why hadn't she told me before?

*     *     *
A love/hate relationship with the theatre around the corner was cemented tonight: it took 45 minutes to find parking spots in the neighbourhood, and there wasn't even a polydactyl cat waiting at home.

The Grape Arbour Reborn In Need of Trimming

Recognisable or not, these were fitted after reading Mr. Cohen's "Book of Longing".

*     *     *

Today in Six Segments


What a fool I am for useless
love and its lustreless sister
What abandoning of Principle at the cliffs
the richly swaddled heir will starve on wit


I bullied him to stay a while longer
on the wire, the badly clipped bird
I wasn't getting the Real Thing you see,
the one you point untoward with words.


How humiliating was my stoop,
the rub of pride on clenched gates,
the efforts to contort his stone
by my blind python, my pure muscled heart.


Desire edged its edge to my lip
and I wanted to drink from the sword,
house its fire in my belly,
push my hands through the mud
like a tree putting down roots.

I am the clay still moist with anticipation
primordial with possibility

He is a porcelain shore, a steep
white shoulder, a pillow cold

from the fires of Russia
where tears harden as glaze


If I could resist his manhandling
of my humble human stuff,
I would hold my formless form
in a beggar’s cup

Await with alchemist calm
the free, winged folk who bring back
from the warm lap of spring

Warmed night, warmed tide
the new moon's scissored sheen
on a swallow’s wing.

*     *     *


I want you more and more. I am the tank.
You think you are the tank. No one wants
to be that lone figure in the way,
waiting to be mowed down.

You are Gandhi; I am the prick of the Crown.
You are the Tiananmen; I am the tank.
What I wouldn't give to smash those Heavenly Gates
or tear through them like a bloodied brood of wild horses.

*     *     *


The wolf has come for your babies
You hung up the lantern
It’s your fault he knows
it’s a cul de sac

*     *     *

Satellite Song

When I am around you I am sad.
I want to cut out, cut away
from this heaviness going nowhere
but the basement with no stair.

Did you notice? Did you feel the drop?
I ended things that have never been.
I cut off my right arm
with my right arm.

*     *     *


Sleep comes calling
like a longtime debtor
or Death, the last suitor.
The patient man in black robes
at the foot of the bed.
He wants my eyes, my eyes.

*     *     *

Today II

Today was a day for accomplishing things
and ruining one thing.

That thing was not the fixing
of the shower head slowed to icicle trickle.

It carved up my thumb nail like a tablet of talc
required a scrub with the rough tub brush,

But now we have rain again,
broad and generous,

What I'd missed since I don't know when.
That is the thing with forgetting.

When you've forgotten you've forgotten,
Happiness is nothing till you remember

The thing forgotten and its forgetting
and pull on the habit of mourning again.

*     *     *

The Moment

For the moment,
the house is clean,
the presents are in the making,
the present is in the making,
the bed is made in morning,
the kitchen is neat,
the shower its full-headed self again—

A giant sunflower you might find
on the roadside in Yunnan
rather than the handful of seeds
you can eat at a time in Hefei.

There is nothing wrong with Hefei.
Where you were sown and watered
is always a kind of home.

*     *     *

The Few of Us

A few of us like imperfectly preserved things.
If you can learn to live

among the ruins,
that is good enough.

To love among them
takes a special blindness,

a partial deafness,
and a whole dumbness.

I can claim all three
though the last is not

a pleasant numbness
or a gift in the mouth.

*     *     *

Monk Songs


I’m no good at monkhood
unlike you, well-handled axe, master
of bodily acts, all right
even un-understood.

I think a mirror matters
I think you like the light
that unsettles sentiments
nailed to the rafters

Unlike the simple night
I am not content
With your general sleep
I want to join the fight

Left the love you spent
right your soured creed.
I magistrate, I referee. You like
the crumb, the drip of good laments

You bed your rock-like seed
in the moon’s girlish white
chamber. She could have kept the gate,
not been home to this razor need.

The dharma warns of plagues
like me, burlesque fires that bathe
your near-bald head in longing, wake
the wounds you summon naked
and shining. Touch me with any thing
of you ajar, you no good punk
And your clay vessel
is good as sunk.

*     *     *
"What do you want, woman?"

The formerly raucous downstairs neighbour is having a private bout with his woman in the courtyard. It started with what sounded like fists pounding on a car. I think she has tamed him in recent months because he has been less evident.

If I get up to close the glass door, it will be apparent that I have been listening. If I do not, I must listen to the crying and reassurances and quiet rending of their present uncomfortable moment. He apologises. She whimpers. It is strange and comforting to know these are people of feeling, that these ordinary troubles plague others, too, near and invisible.

Gladly Beyond

Places I would like to see:

1. The White Cliffs of Dover
2. The ice shelves of Antarctica
3. The Galapagos
4. Patagonia
5. Brasil
6. The parliament buildings at Dhaka
7. The Valley of the Kings
8. Dunhuang
9. The woods of Nottingham
10. Falling Water
11. Le Corbusier's cathedral
12. Farnsworth House
13. Salk Institute at La Jolla
14. Machu Picchu
15. Perth
16. Palenque and Tikal
17. Scotland
18. Ireland
19. Lake District
20. Cannes
21. Cote d'Azure
22. Cortina
23. Sicily
24. Malta
25. Turkey
26. Iceland
27. Ukraine
28. St. Petersburg
29. Hokkaido
30. Thailand
31. Cambodia
32. Tunisia
33. Tangiers
34. Red Rocks at Petra
35. Vietnam
36. Milford Sound
37. The Great Barrier Reef
38. India
39. Bhutan
40. Tibet
41. Uighur country
42. South Africa
43. Mali
44. Mozambique
45. Hungary
46. Prague
47. The Stones of Chile
48. Belize
49. Venezuela
50. Montana
51. Salt Flats of Utah
52. Portland, OR
53. Disneyland
54. Virginia
55. North Carolina
56. Georgia
57. Memphis, TN
58. Graceland
59. Gibraltar
60. Past and Future

Little Deaths

I am so mentally and emotionally exhausted right now that though coffee keeps the body running, there's no driver behind the wheel. Everything is funny, I can't control the smallest movement to the biggest stir, and everything is funny.

For doc class today, I presented a five minute segment of "Fishing with John", the Jim Jarmusch episode, and couldn't stop laughing. luckily, others saw the meta humour in it as well, including our usually very proper professor, which was impressive. AM did say he thought the piece was pointless, but we knew better. My original choice was a much more serious clip from "Persepolis" or "Waltz with Bashir", but "Fishing with John" was perfect for this time.

There is a lot of pressure around the doc in the fall and the doc apparently happening in three weeks in the Homeland. I feel distressed. Usually, the smooth, resolved surface of my conflicting identities and personality is attained through private experience of difficult negotiations with the places and people surrounding my birth. This time, I must go through it whilst making a public project and in the company of people from school, a more or less professional sphere I will have to reenter for many times in future, if fortunate.

These are blessings, but uneasy ones. As lovely co-director NA puts it, "I feel dead inside". True, but perhaps we can write ourselves out of this one. I am determined to rescue Sabine from the brink and make her story NOT one of those 60-page orphans too unpleasant to ever visit again. You may shoot your darlings, but it's plain cruel to let them starve to death.

I am hungry all of a sudden.


Today was a day for accomplishing things and ruining one thing.

That thing was not the fixing of the shower head that had slowed to an icicle's trickle. Though it carved up my thumb nail and required a scrub with the rough tub brush, now we have rain again, broad and generous, what I'd missed since I don't know when.

That is the thing with forgetting. When you've forgotten you've forgotten something, that thing never was and never will. Till you remember the original forgetting.

I wish I had energy like this every day. Is this how normal people live? I would amend Leonard Cohen's lines for this:

Desire the horse,
Fatigue the cart.

For the moment, the house is relatively clean, the presents are in the making, the present is in the making, the bed is made in morning, the kitchen is clean, the shower its full-headed self again--a giant sunflower you might find on the roadside in Yunnan rather than the handful of seeds you can eat at a time in Hefei.

Not that there is anything wrong with Hefei. Where you were grown and watered is always a kind of home.

That one thing I ruined was never going to be raised anyway. There are a few of us who like old, imperfectly preserved things. If you can learn to live among the ruins, that is good enough. To love among them takes a special blindness, a partial deafness, and certainly a dumbness. I can claim to have all three qualities though the last one is more of a struggle than not.

OK, enough procrastination. Back to the orchestra of my construction.

Moments Like These

Calming down my heart after a day of sunshine and happy, hoppy news... Or maybe it's the medicinal caffeine talking, dithering, shouting mad with joy to the whole world (except for a lemon-faced girl I almost ran over with A's Razr in the courtyard--of course, she was right and I was giddy, but how long has it been since I've felt this alive?)... My heart bursts with joy. I think I may die from it.

(For moments like these, it is worth the pulling on of blue robes in melancholy.)

(For causes, the turnaround news of a second producer and the long, generous chat with M about chemo and living thanks.)