I am not free.
I am a butterfly
trapped in a jar.
The boys caught me in the wild,
tricked me with their honeyed tongue.
I fluttered my way out,
they see it as a dance.
Dance! Dance! Dance!
Startled by the horrifying noise,
I fluttered some more.
But all I could do,
Was making some weak noises on the glass.
The sun light scorches me.
The air boils.
They ordered me to dance some more.
Shouting, yelling, screaming,
Beating the jar,
with eyes magnifying on the glass.
Then you will be free. They said.
I fluttered, fluttered, fluttered some more.
And my mind wandered.
To the trees, the rivers, and the honey.
The flowers watched.
Dancing with the breeze,
Silently, gently, danced with the breeze.
I have grown tired. I thought.
So, so, so very tired.
And I started to dance,
With the song of the nature,
I had truly loved.
Ah, how ugly it is. The wings are broken.
It is no use for specimen now.
They opened the lid.
And I fell out, quietly.
On the grass that nourished my childhood.
The sky, the sun, and the flowers looked at me.
That was some sweet honey. I thought.
Dream, dream, dream away.
And the boys grew
The flowers slept,
The earth hid my body away.
I am not free.
I am a butterfly
trapped in a jar.
The crowd clatter, clatter, clattered,
The voices died down, and
in the shade of winter sunlight
She is the centre of the stillness.
Silence submerged, submerse, immerse,
Rising among the hustle huddle
Is a star, still as its ornamentation.
And the earth continues to rotate.
In its own path, it is alone.
drifted in its own thoughts,
Looking down onto the earth.
No one could reach its world.
A sailor reached the top of the palm tree,
Would you accompany me? He asked.
The star sailed its own the reflection,
And swam with the fishes in the sea.
The sailor sailed, turning his rudder.
Calling for the star, and praising its beauty.
But the star, mounting on the waves
Broke into a thousand pieces of little lights.
It returned to the sky with sadness,
For the seer cannot seer without its sky.
The star misses the fishes of the sea, and
the sweet call of the sailor, far, far away.
The sky harmonizes her inner silence
Gently, gently, embraced its loneliness,
The sailor sails towards his oasis,
And the star never knows.
Passing the borders once again.
Roman rain replaced the dry, cold wind of Berlin.
Strange voices beside my ears.
My senses are open.
What is it like to be in Europe once again?
“Cinese, Cinese” I hear it all the time.
Every word of knowledge is condensed into a symbol,
a pronoun, an utmost simplification of the Asian face.
The most superior invention of the human race.
Repeated words dissolved in the vast Italian language.
Sono tornata a casa.
It is late again.
Moonlight contours half of his face under the starry sky.
One of his legs is rested on the porch.
He ciao-ed my neighbors.
I sat on the stairs, moonlight caresses his gentleness.
Stillness. Come un quadro.
“What are you thinking?”
The brown met the blue.
“My time used to run in its full speed.
It is just a part of my work.”
Inala il fumo.
“It seems that my time has stopped when I am here.”
“One day, I have to decide which is the dream.”
Lo soffia via.
“And is this what you want?”
My Taiwanese flag is the witness.
“Lamentations I heard on every side
but I saw no one who might be crying out
so that, confused, I stopped.”
(Hollander’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, Canto XIII: 21-24)
Ashley cannot sleep.
Before her bed moonlight shines too brightly through her window
(or at least it is the moonlight that she remembers).
In her white little room, the world is so still she could not tell which hour it is.
In a silence she sits up and peers through the window.
She imagines breeze coming through the silt.
It seems that her time alone is frozen in the stream of life,
and that there is nothing in the world that will beseech her in the little room where she stays.
In this eternal silence the door slowly creaked open behind her.
Ashley jumped, beaming into a smile as she heard the familiar voice of the kind gentleman.
You are here!
She burst out into the laughter of a summer bird.
Of course I am; we made a promise.
The tall figure walked into the little room, and sat down beside her bed;
he touched her forehead. Ashley thought his hand was rather cold.
You don't have a fever today.
But of course I don't, I behaved well.
Good. Did you do your assignments?
And out of his brown suitcase he pulled out some scrambled papers--
Ashley heard the rustling sound of the paper and sat up straighter
which made the gentleman smile. He covered his lips
so that he does not laugh, and then cleared his throat
to change into a stern serious look.
And she narrated the story in such manner as if each word is inscribed in her memory.
It is how one reads, she has always thought.
Learning by heart is the only way for her to connect to the outside world.
The world she had never understood.
Why did Virgil ask Dante to break the branches?
This is actually a good question. Do you have your Aeneid?
You find Virgil mean.
But what was Dante’s reaction when the branch is torn?
What was Dante’s reaction towards Virgil? And the souls?
Do you think Virgil should react otherwise?
He walked to turn on some lamplights as Ashley straightened her back.
I think I heard something.
Nothing is there, Ashley.
But certainly, something is there—
Come back here.
She sank back into her bed, crouching on her pillow, she held the rose between her thumbs.
Good. Can you answer my questions now?
She replied patiently, though she had no idea what the question was.
She ended up murmuring with a little whisper:
Sorry... I lost track.
The Lamb smiled as he noticed her guilt, and spoke again in a kind manner:
Would you tell me where Dante and Virgil are in this passage?
Excuse me, who?
She responded the stillness outside the window.
Ashley— there is noth—
Ashley, if you cannot concentrate on your courses I will be leaving now—
Ashley turned back immediately.
Ashley does not need me anymore, she has all her Dante in her mind.
I must pack up my stories back in my suitcase and—
The gentleman stopped. The small figure had blocked his way.
Ashley's tearful face was buried in his suitcase.
He placed his hand on her shoulder.
I am sorry, child.
Please do not leave.
I am sorry— I am not going anywhere. Come.
He sat beside her, looking into the grey-washed wall that cracked open in a shape of a rose’s throne.
What is it that you heard Ashley?
I don't know. I thought I ought to answer... perhaps it is the wind.
Do you want me to check for you?
Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose name was Ashley.
Ashley had long black hair that touched her knees,
and a pair of big grey eyes that sought the lights of the sun.
She lived in a little room where there was a little window.
Beside the window there was a little bed, where she lay alone.
Beside the little bed, there was a little table where
a book lay open on its warm white surface.
Everything around her was white expect a little rose beside her white little table,
which was beside her white little bed.
It was a red little rose wrapped with a black little ribbon,
which smelt like the fresh meadows in early spring.
Sometimes, the Lamb would enter her white little room,
and they would journey a bit together in Dante’s Inferno.
Revised from 2018 short story "Story of a Lamb."
It was a cool afternoon at Kings College. She was sitting beside the building of Maughan Library, on the old wooden bench beside the building entrance. The students were preparing for their finals and so was she, writing her final drafts for a final paper. Entering the left hand side of the building, she would have headed in, turn, and walk on the swirling stairs that goes up into the shelves with latin literature collections.
It was not the books themselves that fascinated her the most, but the scent of the ancientness that the books give out when she sat down amongst them, her back facing the wall of books on Arthurian and medieval literature.
Her mind would unwind as she, looking far off into the narrow road where she entered the building, would see the sunset right there beside her, fuming into the walls and inviting themselves in through the window glasses and land on her books, enshrouding them with a fumoir of the golden age.
It was not the deep red autobuses and the loud commercing tourist spots that fascinated her, but the ancientness of the city, in the accent of the different classes of people that she sensed, the little smirks among the different skin tones she met, and the tall white buildings in its unmovable glory of the past that fascinated her.
It was her working day, from ten in the morning to early afternoon, she would sit there, at times reading books of her own interests, other times, those concerning her studies in culture and performance, sometimes, she just sat amidst the shelves and zoomed out. No words are needed during those moments of satisfaction.
It was a different day though, as she sat on the bench taking out her computer. The coolness of the mist came in through her coat. She had to find a place to stay for the rest of the day, for she had forgotten that it was not a library opening day. Students from other colleges like her, are not allowed to enter the library.
A pigeon landed, pecked the floor, and flew away. A young man came out of the building and sat on the bench beside her, holding a cup of hot coffee, with his legs spread open and an arm extending the bench, seemingly to be enjoying himself. A few minutes later, some students entering the college gate greeted him.
“You know what I like the most for non-opening days? No students from other colleges would gather here or use the library, just Kings.” He smirked with a raised tone in his voice. The other students replied hastily, with an awkward politeness “oh, yeah?”
They quickly walked away, as the young man took another sip of the coffee.
The story ended there. Whether she left for the next library, or headed home for a few groceries, she has forgotten.
The day headed on, and she handed in her final paper on time, probably with the company of her favorite shrimp salad at Prets. This little moment stayed, leaving no changes in her on-going life. It was just an ordinary day with the sun gently shining through the mist of the early spring London, in the year 2019.
And who will be there for you, dear child?
When you face that immense darkness,
As a maiden, a quiet object of the house,
When it encloses your mind and taunts at your being,
You are nobody.
You laugh. You have to laugh.
Even when your sky has cracked open and the
Stars have fallen, and the tides have arisen and
The earth has quaked. Because no one will.
So you count,
A small partial of here and there,
From the woman who would have loved you so,
And a bit of this and that,
By making use of your little labour.
For there can be no force when
Here and now is not permitted.
He has too often forgotten
That the woman of his past life,
was the same person whom you’d call a mother,
That the woman of his present life,
Is not a part of that property at his command,
That her fortune once were also
a share of promise for your own future.
She said she would thank him
Of his care and his love of the house
While out of love for her you
trap yourself in his uneven temper
Watch him play the tragic hero
Dismiss and neglect your words and
Replace your needs with more materials
that enclose his sense of time
Once, twice, thrice, and more
Forty times a quarter a day
And more, praying and asking
Where has she gone?
Once, twice, thrice and more
Thirty days a month of the year
Everything must be kept
As the way she has left it
As the way time does not move still.
Or else I will not sleep.
No. No. I do not permit change.
What is love but an empty trace of
that honored life of your past?
You linger on youth and miss the
Years of growth,You cling on her
as if she would bring back
The time that is no longer here.
Words, words, words,
So much words of these men who
Think my neglect is out of misunderstanding of that pain
As if I do not feel that same loss of losing not one,
As I look into the eyes of Darkness
As Darkness looks into the eyes of mine.
Who will be there for you?
And for years they will call you
Icarus, the reckless boy who flied too high
who reached the sun and plunged into his death.
And no one knew that
your destination never was the next shore
And your flight never was from the high maze
They would never know that
The glamour of the spheres have
Taught you the secrets of their songs
To reach too high is far better than
to fall into the ways of the man
who plows the land and knows not the end
Your story will be told as a tale for the
Children to obey the rules and
You will be mocked at, forgotten, and left alone
Only because you are too young to
Speak in your own words and have left too soon
To defend for your own dreams
Unlike your father who sang his mind so well
that his passion and judgement sent his curiosity
into the maze of his own grave
His mind is remembered such
that little pueri will have to learn from his intelligence—
the man who acted
Yet Icarus, Icarus, the boy who fell
are’t the lights in the ocean singing
The same song of the falling spheres
Churning, swirling, in the embrace of your sun