David Leo (b. 1948)
where shall i lie
when i die
if there be no rolling plain or the slope of a hill
where i shall wake (yes, wake) to a bird’s trill
or the sound of rain falling gently on the mound
where i shall be wrapped warm in the evening glow
gazing at stars retelling stories I used to know
a plot to call home where during qing ming
i await visits form friends (maybe not) and kin
listening to their happy voices, their laughter
no more the tears that came between us
they knowing i’ve always been there
me proud to be a part of their past
alas, to be lodged in a hole in a wall
in some storage hall
the years reduced in a jar, a fistful of dust
is there an afterlife?
is there hope of dying a second death?
dying, dream ahead
that you may have a life
transiting from dead
on All Souls Day
she goes down to the sea
and dips her toes in the water, knowing
he’s kept his promise of coming home
had he been laid
beneath a mound of dirt
or kept in a jar
they would have grown apart
without the intimacy of touch
by the water he has sworn
the constancy of his love
she rests comforted that when he goes
he always returns
you took away my childhood fear
the dread to tread
where beneath lay the dead
you brought me in its stead
the gift of being
one with all that’s seen
i’ve found peace within myself
as if transposed from your repose
you gave the reason to escape
the city’s scum
and all that ho-hum,
the graveyard has become for me
this place, so complete in itself
where words are redundant
words, so inadequate
we simply let
the silence speak
This is a good neighbourhood, you say, where you rest. So am I glad, always feeling inadequate about not being able to afford the best.
Of course, you reminded me it’s classless down below. That I ought to know – all that worldly fuss has come to naught, so much ado about form when modern uniformity has become the norm.
Public housing is it after all. One size should fit all.
You’ve mad e new friends, you say; good to know you’re not alone,. You shall not rely on me for company, I who visit your stone but once a year to keep house at Qing Ming, stay for only as long as the joss sticks burn out. Always wondering, if filial piety is what it’s all about.
I hear you; I shall not forget joss sticks for the neighbours whose sons and daughters have forgotten. Absence is apt to stray the heart, even of the begotten.
I see the mess left by one removed, gone to a new commune called columbarium. No solarium but a hall lined with holes in the wall. He wasn’t happy to go, you say, crushed, jarred, labelled and shelved, like unsold products in a store. But more, soon more will go.
I have not the heart to tell you the lease is running out. When on borrowed time we thrive, adjustment is what keeps us alive. Or dead. Finally dead.
by David Leo
from Ubin Dreaming (You’ve Been Dreaming) (2012)