Poetry / November 2007 (Issue 1)

Forms of Flesh

by Russell C. Leong

It was not a shock.
More like a tiny needle in my arm.
A jolt.  She called my cell phone.

She was divorced, I knew that much.
Had a small beauty salon
in Causaway Bay near
the park where we'd usually
exercise in the morning.

These balmy March days, we would practice
in Victoria Park, stay out most of the morning,
then take breakfast at McDonalds
instead of the regular dim sum.

Processed eggs, sausages and muffins
seemed cleaner, mechanized, untouched
by human hands, though, in reality
everything touched flesh.

We fooled ourselves.

We were wary of crowded teahouses.
The public health announcement
told us to wash our hands, stay
out of congested places like
movie theatres and restaurants.
SARS could spread through people.

Do you have a house?  A car?
How much monthly salary?
She asked.  I didn't answer.
See you tomorrow, I said.

When I went to Victoria Park
the very next day
to practice my Chen tai-chi,
I said to her loudly:
I don't think I qualify as husband material, and
Look, I don't wanna mix
my movements with money.
And I don't know where true love is
or the meaning of any of it.

She told me not to talk so loud
in front of the other players, but
I talked louder and louder,
releasing my feelings like
fajing from the tightened fist of my feelings.

Then I calmed down, as I reached
the 47th level form, dan bien.

It dawned on me, afterall, that
old age, SARS, loneliness, arthritis,
alcohol, or AIDS could get to any one of us.
Didn't matter whether we took breakfast
in Hong Kong, Toronto, Los Angeles, or Singapore.

But here and now--
we'd better get through March and April,
hope the June sun would burn away
all Disease and all Desire, equally.

After all, all forms of flesh are equal.

(Hong Kong, 2003, during the SARS epidemic.)

Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.