The Jeweler

January 23, 2017

I

Her feet pace

          muddy

     through father's field,

      The rain of the riverside

     sending her back, forward, 

  Uncertain if she is making escape 

or venturing untoward; 

 

   First there is a bridge, bent and boarded,

 Bound with nails above the 

       empire swell,

Vi dau, she imagines, mother singing, 

     These lullabies never disappear;

 

         When she reaches the brook it is narrow,

       as if a needle has plined its way 

   through the knolls

     and unearthed the lifewater of the refugee;

 

The boat

         wooden and sure

    will not drag in the murk

So when she steps in she is like the crane

       Who posed on tips for so long in the drought she became treerooted

            to the earth's first skin, 

             and when its perch 

                finally made land

         it lay fruit at the feet of the tree;

   The earth poured,      winged leaves unsheathed at last. 

 

This is how her father would picture her in his final days-

Boarding passage to the West, while flame took the air 

Out of the ground he sprung from, the fall of trees. 

 

Tomorrow I'm going dear, the city's lights are no longer beautiful.

 

 

II

Or maybe, this how we would envision her, 

Some decades after, a woman pursued, in pursuit, 

Taking the water's way out, 

But we know now, we know.

 

There was a fall, surely, yet not the wake of boats, but the rise of planes, 

Planes and 500 pound bombs and brave pilots heading north and south, 

She does not hear father and mother calling, only the clug clug clug 

of steel extending through the northern sky. 

 

Then, a slow passage through the mountains, 

The things they carried: guns, fish sauce, photographs, music,

Jewels of the heartland: these chains of life, these 

      shards of rebirth. 

 

      Through Indonesia, she sang, 

    Imagine, child, riding the elephant's golden back,

     Child, sleep well, and mother will buy you a sugar cane,

         Long and bent, 

 

       Through France, she sang, 

     Imagine, child, white birds flying in all directions, 

        Child, sleep well, so mother does not lose sight of you, 

           A water fern adrift,

 

        Through the atlantic air, she sang,

      Imagine, oh my beloved, stay with me, 

           Beloved, do not go, leave a piece of you, 

              For I, bejeweled, imagine. 

 

III

               They say when she arrived, holding no tension in her haunches

              in the golden garden, 

           She lay in that fresh soil one shard of her fatherland,  

         So that it might grow into a tree of ice, 

      And all of her seeds may be refreshed and satisfied. 

 

But this was not the old city, where water and earth and sun shared bounty, 

They would laugh at her, blunderous, for a time, to think that she had

Buried away on a land meant to be paved over. 

 

Life passed, and with it children who were not so fruitful, 

Who did not grow into grace or demure, 

Whose loud voices corrupted the kitchen, 

Asking how Ba Noi had come upon the water flesh,

How much there was in keep, 

And when they would see themselves through its refractions,

 

    Child,

She would sing to them, 

    My child run up to the mountain, 

    So mom can carry water--

But the melody had fallen, they were children

    No longer.

 

Lost first was the eldest, to the digging, 

Plunging head down into the crust until

His feet were the sole piece left above surface,

Forming the tilted cross that now sits in monument. 

 

Then the second, choosing not to see

Where the source of his water had derived, instead

Sprouting piously from a crop of his own design, 

Overtaken in the droughtbreak at last, neither coveting nor owning. 

 

And finally the youngest, swept away

In the perfume and frosted petals, 

Her voice exchanged for a lilting gasp atop the branches, 

Ferae naturae, a view none were meant to broach. 

 

IV

       Only in Grandmother's passing, 

     long after time had set its way, 

             Did the new generation learn 

             where that first shard was lain, 

So many dawns ago. 

    And when granddaughter went to the origin, covered now

In years of tar and coin, a vestige of a long lost lullaby,

  She remembered the lyrics alas, 

     It was not crane, but stork, who hummed the epic:

 

A Little baby stork

It's perched on a branch of

bamboo

It went away

But didn't ask its mother.

How does she know where it

went?

When you go out, ask

When you arrive home, say

Hello.

Your mouth is slightly open,

How can mother not love you.

 

She mouthed these lines over and over the seeds of the tree, 

Now knowing what was never meant to sprout at all.

 

 

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