THE WANDERER (7286) // Justin Lo

 

 

I.

 

IN DAYS PAST OF BALLPOINT PENS UPON PARCHMENT,

In days as ruins cried their first,

When, like rain, our memories dripped forth

And in the lake swelled upon each other,

Did we not see come at our gates

On foot

Under the blazing sun with nothing but his Self

(And an apple)

With hair loose like the reeds near the lake,

He with a solemn tune at his lips (we must be

Embarrassed to admit we know not his melody),

And a smile of no bounds and eternity?

 

As well, we would say,

You and I were tending to our humble plot

Of plum tomatoes and basil;

We were birds of the day, chirping away,

Flitting about the same endroits

(Wearing the same dresses each day)

Always hoping for a little change, a sign,

A little twinkle like

The first tomato or the first basil blossom

Or a newborn child or the day the teacher smiled;

Oh, as well, we would say,

You and I were maidens of the Wind;

No one else could hear his chatter!

Yet why ought they, upon the nights gone by,

Have listened when they hoped nothing to hear?

Yes, you and I,

We hoped to hear and heard

The footsteps of his bare feet approach us from afar

The exotic sounds like the tomatoes bursting forth

Yes, the maidens of the Wind could hear how the air

Bent about him

And the mysteryís allure

With gentle prod of featherís wisp

Threw fits of phoenix forth

And no one heard a thing but us!

 

I watched him from afar, gliding about with

Probing eyes and the gentlest utterance;

I danced about the fields

And washed my dress each day;

And oh, you saw the twinkle!

You didnít say but you secretely whispered

To the Wind (in full confidence)

And threw forth your vibrant treasures

Until the Sky glittered like your dreams.

The wanderer seemed oblivious,

His eyes pure and piercing

Like the whites of his teeth that haunted

Our nights with wonder.

 

You and I, we objected never

To the way the wanderer built his home,

Never a brick, never a log,

But straw, pale as the moon and bristling as

The attractive stubble upon his chin

As if he had an implicit contract with the Wind

(Like you and I, but he heard and he spoke

And with clarity as the blossoms of the spring)

That one day the house would flutter down

Like moths and butterflies

Flutter down and flutter up, in writhing reverie,

And we objected never.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.

 

WE WERE HIS FRIENDS BECAUSE

We snuck in those little plum tomatoes.

Oh yes, and what great lengths we took

To even hide ourselves from his adorable gaze

(And to hide the ripplings of our billowy dresses

In the Wind!)

I saw how you pranced about the fields

With inhuman grace with your jet black

Streams of hair

And flew over the fences to the ephemeral straw house

Like a dragon in the Sky.

Yes, I envied your deliberate delicacy,

The heart of a warrior

In the tenderness of youth and love.

I confess

When it rained,

I saw him pass with his silver hair,

Glistening

And I buried my face in the folds of my gown,

Knowing (guessing) how his heart was elsewhere

Or else with you

And where! Ė that would be so close

In our garden, or perhaps,

On the slopes that tumbled down to the river that we shared,

Or in the forests where the rabbits burrowed,

Or anywhere

But with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III.

 

I PLAYED WITH MY HAIR

While I thought;

Could not the intimacy of words be the

Vehicle of lasting friendship?

By a bizarre stroke, by the Heavens above,

I spoke a word with him,

Eyes always fidgeting, my fingers pinching my clothes,

Yet words, yes, naturally, naturally not like the way I moved

For my words were true

True as the Wind and Sky

True but not enough;

Like the ripples in a pond wave regularly,

So she kept surfacing in his words

And I thought her to be quite crude

For a blossom who could net the heart of the wanderer.

You glided about, as always, as always,

I suspected that you had started to neglect our garden,

But I did not accuse:

With the rainclouds fast approching,

I felt compelled by the ominous shadows

To recount his words to you.

I played with my hair

While I thought.

 

The plum tomatoes were dying and we all knew it.

I wept lightly as I watched them crumple

Like ball lanterns deflated and extinguished;

She said, he said,

And the storm came as I strolled to town.

Huddled in shock and love, below the muted moonlight

Obscured by clouds,

I found you

 

And I ran away

But you found me;

I think you were angry that I had made my dress muddy

But I was no lady anyhow.

I was a gardener Ė

I loved my plants,

And yet why were the plants so fragile?

I protected them!

††††††††††† Would I not say so?

I nourished them!

††††††††††† Would you not admit so?

So why so cruel must the Sun be

To teach the lesson of God

With the vile sticks of death?

And you, you were cruel as well;

You, the dragon, with gentle but resilient grip

And a heart of the sun and moon in union

You of all could make the wanderer stay

While I ran away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV.

 

OH, OH, THE PUMPKINS GROW!

The basil is divine,

Why, yes, the radish is great,

And look at that grape vine!

 

I could not care

To watch the fruits

As they grew to size;

Why else had I grown them

(Do you not see?)

But to give them to him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V.

 

CRY, GREAT MOUNTAINS FORTH:

Let loose your wretched sorrow;

It would be like mine.

Into the forest I wander,

Hands touching the handsome bamboo

That clutters the landscape

Like ships on the sea,

And I can only wallow deep,

The rocks abraiding my tender ankles

And my hair tangled by sweat.

 

Loves me, loves me not, loves me, loves me not,

And then the flower withers

Taking my tears with it;

Oh, what waste a garden would be

With no one to feed,

I reasoned as I laid my head between my knees,

Huddled,

Humming a solemn tune (this one was mine),

And picking at the bamboo leaves.

 

And what is the aesthetic

Of a plant upon its knees:

That I grew it?Watered it?

Bathed it as a child, yes, I have none of my own;

The men are off to work,

The maiden of Wind holds no name amongst them.

And the wanderer shall I be?

††††††††††† For no longer could he,

The traitor, the beautiful one, the one of the silver hair like

The stars, frigid in their demeanor, warm in the gaze

But hardly a story told

And the Wind berating my blistered hands

For caring not about their happiness.

 

Oh selfish girl!Oh pitiful creature!

What substance had you ever held?

What a weak body, like the bamboo that bends in the Wind

And reaches for the Sky

When a bird is the Sky and is the Wind and

Who would ever love the careless gelatin

In a bright blue dress?

The mountains are strong, and so should be the maiden

Whose life is a garden of no value but itself!

To tend to the nothingness

To cultivate and toil with nothing but

Faith

And a bright blue dress.

 

Ah!Loves me not,

And I should strangle the bamboo with the ribbon

That I tie around my waist,

Or at least say

I am different!The wanderer cannot be mine

Nor you, sleek dragon, who I cannot approach any longer.

In the Sky you court the drifting soul of emeralds

And I on Earth wrap the ribbon about my neck

To gauge my weakness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI.

 

OH!I AM NO COMMON MAID;

The ribbon draws blood and I smile,

Then I tumble down the weeping Mountain

To my garden once more.

I see you just fine;

††††††††††† My eyes are slits in the dark;

You are happy; your royal blue apron

Dances about

And you cart off the pumpkins and the grapes

And the basil and the radishes.

I bid you farewell

And eat the plum tomatoes

On the ground.

 

Forget! I implore the Wind,

For if he lets fall the memories, so may I,

I would give it up now

To once again work in this garden;

The Mountain is to great to scale.

The wandererís heart is yours to keep;

I shall resign myself to the tasks

At hand.

 

You are off in the earthly paradise;

Each dream I have of you is bittersweet.

Idyllic!

What things pass behind the straw doors

And under the Kingdom that is yours,

Oh Queen of the Skies?

And under the Empire that is his,

Oh King of the Stars?

What trite names, trite,

And yet the ideal surpasses and vanquishes

The bitter scorn of mature dungheap slander,

And the innocence of heart cries out:

††††††††††† ďLet us be as we mayĒ

And I speak not a word and content myself

With the spiderís web between the branches

Of my soul.

 

Idyllic, idyllic,

Like a taunt it sounds;

I envy the unknown because

A human cannot live forever

In a garden she cultivates;

Yet trapped I am, for the Sky and the Stars

Are claimed by the lovers

Caught in the idyllic trance of pure love

And not an ounce

Of the mutual sin

Of romance.

 

And I, ribbon about my waist once more,

Off to town to buy the seeds,

And you out of my memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VII.

 

THE WANDERERíS SECRET

Is a hefty one;

How does one wander

But take, then leave

And never speak a word of it?

And what a tragedy it is, to find him ever wandering,

Unsatisfied,

And dreaming of the next town

(El Dorado)

And you, the pure beauty of black hair,

Crying on the banks of the river, not seeing

The rabbit tracks.

 

I am maiden of the Wind no longer,

Yet neither are you;

I lay prostrate upon Earth who gives the dust

That I consume.

When the Wind comes we fight,

Enemies, for the Wind would like to rob us

And carry off the wanderer to the next town

(Not El Dorado)

And you would cry,

I let it pass

And you draw your sword.

 

The blade is the diamondís edge

In your graceful hands,

Yet the claws of your dragonís body

Would hurt so much more to endure.

 

Did you not see the way he held his heart clasped

Behind lock

With key in the hometown of yesteryear?

Neither did I;

Let be the heart away, and never will love know his name;

Take charge, and take conscience;

And perhaps the wanderer will tell

Or perhaps he will leave.

 

You and I remain friends,

And he and I still talk,

Yet tacitly, we know:

I am alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIII.

 

I AM A DEMONESS,

My dress is blood red from the tomatoes

I let rot in my lap.

I tend the plants but I feed them with the vile juice

Of jealousy.

Friendship is accomodating enough;

††††††††††† I am friend and enemy.

I would never raise my claw against yours,

And I would support your whirlwind fantasy,

But the fire is still there.

 

I bid you farewell and good luck

(I want you to find it worse off)

I write you cards and smile

(I hope you are defeated)

Love corrupts the naÔve soul;

The World becomes the prey

Of the vicious tiger that sits in wait

At the bottom of the bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IX.

 

WHAT SHREDS OF ANGELIC FEATHERS

Do I cling to each day!

By night the monster claims my heart

And the goodness cannot stay.

 

I watch how you cry out to him

That it is unfair how

You offer him the Sky to reign over

So that he can be closer to the World

While he keeps the Stars in his closet;

 

The wandererís secret

Is a hefty one;

Would truly anyone ever know?

I sob when I hear of the tragedy

Of the Skies and the Stars and the World.

 

Why cannot the lovely couple be

Content at its great fortune?

When, torn by Angel and Demon,

I may still cherish my dress,

Though it is a mortal shade of crimson

And not blue as I had hoped it would remain.

 

Wanderer, stay!

††††††††††† I hear you shout with the force of trumpets,

Powerful like your heart.

The wanderer is near tears:

††††††††††† For you, there is not the love you want!

And cry!For the moment has come

And the wandererís house has fallen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X.

 

I CHASE AFTER HIM

And he has no words for me.

He says nothing but I offer a squash

And he seems pleased.

 

I have the soil!

††††††††††† I shout so that he can hear.

There could be a house here

And it would be wonderful.

 

But alas, the dragon reigns upon all the Sky

And the aura of the Heavenly mansion

That you have prepared

Ensnares the heart of the wanderer once again

And I watch as he ascends.

 

Alone, I return to the garden.

Alone, the Elements mock me.

Alone, I cry.

Alone, the Demoness smiles and chokes the Angel

††††††††††† Until the fair one coughs

The vital liquid

And it splatters along the ground.

What a mess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XI.

 

ONE DAY, MANY YEARS LATER, YOU RETURN;

I am deviously tricking the rocks into turning over.

You shiver,

Horrified,

When you see my garden,

The pumpkins grinning,

Their teeth

Chewing the grape vine.

 

Allow me to welcome you properly:

I am the Demoness of the Wind;

I glide about with unfeeling efficacy,

Smiling honestly at the garden I have created.

 

The wanderer has drifted off to the next town,

You say it is not so far

And that you will follow him.

 

I wash a tomato for you.

The tomatoes are not bad at all;

I would not poison a friend with

The blighted individuals of my garden.

 

So many years ago, we had stood here,

Awaiting the arrival of the twinkling star,

And now he has come and gone;

I bring you to the bamboo forest

Where even a Demoness can find solace;

My red dress complements the verdure nicely.

 

Would you like some tea?

But you are already gone;

You have followed the wanderer to the next town;

I will tend to my humble garden,

Alone.

 

FIN.