THE WANDERER (7286) // Justin Lo
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
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.
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.
When it rained,
I saw him pass with his silver hair,
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,
But with me.
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.
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?
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,
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
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.
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
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
You are off in the earthly paradise;
Each dream I have of you is bittersweet.
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.
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
And I, ribbon about my waist once more,
Off to town to buy the seeds,
And you out of my memory.
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,
And dreaming of the next town
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
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.
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
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.
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.
††††††††††† 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.
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.
ONE DAY, MANY YEARS LATER, YOU RETURN;
I am deviously tricking the rocks into turning over.
When you see my garden,
The pumpkins grinning,
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,