"We gaze at each other, neither growing tired,
There is only Jingting Shan."
—Li Bai, Sitting Alone on Jingting Shan Hill
Though nothing keeps you. Though I scatter
white powder by the entrance hall. Though I cover
over the eyes of all our gods, empty the house
of its mirrors, anything that might fling
my eyes back to me. Though I hurry through
each room, test the doors, windows, take down
a painting, blow at the dust, put it back up again,
step away. Though I step away. Though I replace
the old curtains. Though I smooth over this side
of the bed, rest my hand upon your pillow.
Though I count your clothes, folded and still
smelling of bleach, before I gather them up
in a small pile. Though I instruct the maids
on what they must do, how high the necessary
flame. Though the past few years I’ve taught
our grandchildren what songs I still know, like let me come
and pick a blossom to give my love;
or else, the moon
represents my heart.
Though I forget. Though steadfastly
I polish the silver coins I will place into
your mouth, one by one, praying in the next world
they suffice to feed you. Though I ask what hunger, too,
must be there for, if loving you, if without the tightness,
no bird, no cloud, no distance. Though the distance stretch
long and far past the horizon of whatever memory is
still granted me. Though Cotabato is not Fujian,
this is not the mountain you thought you grew up
in the shadow of, and the absence of
a language does not have to be
the absence of family. Though our eldest son,
charged with carrying your shrouded portrait
past all the old roads of this city, has been learning
to place his feet behind each other, glancing only
out of the corner of his eye to direct himself as I’m told
the dead do. Though he has been practicing for days.
Though he will not fail. Though when he finally arrives,
he shuts the door before him. Though he rests you proper
on the table. Though he lights a candle.
Joshua Uyheng graduated with a degree in psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University and is currently completing a second degree in mathematics at the same university. His work has previously been featured in Plural
, Kritika Kultura
, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
. The poem "There Is Only Jingting Shan" is for Ama.