Abing Speaks to ... | Gavin Yuan Gao

Abing Speaks to the Moon About the Loss of His Vision

 

 

Cast out into the streets, I curse 

             this skin-tight hour of slumbering 

                          & waking. Curse this blight that evicted 

 

your light from the guesthouses 

             of my eyes. All winter, I petitioned the sky 

                          to revoke its decree of heavy snow, 

 

prayed for the boiling tide in my lungs 

             to ebb—so that the steel strings between 

                         my fingers could speak again­ in worship

 

of the fleeting quiet before each dawn

             with the faith & fluency of a rooster.

                         Instead, fever licked my vision bone-clean. 

 

Whittled my body down to such lightness 

             I wore it through the day like a whispered 

                         confession. But even in such losses

 

there’s a sacredness. A hymn. As darkness

             rises like steam behind my eyes, my hearing 

                         brightens into ice: I hear summer moult

 

into autumn, persimmons untethered 

             from stalwart branches thudding

                         to the ground like bells of flesh.

 

I hear the precise, surgical knife 

             of each pitying sigh as a coin glides 

                         like a cold note along the chipped edge 

 

of my china bowl, finally coming to rest 

             at its centre the way a shiver lands in the small 

                         of my back when the wind trespasses.

 

Faithful listener in the tree. Let me

             lay down this vagrant life at your feet  

                         & run a palm along the slender neck 

 

of my erhu. Feel the strings eager                                    

             to unstitch the stillness as my heart turns 

                         from barrenness toward praise.  

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This poem is part of a series of poems I’m working on about the life of the blind Chinese folk musician, Abing (1893-1950), famed for his erhu performances. He lived a vagrant life during the years of Japanese invasion of China.

 

 

 

Gavin Yuan Gao is a Meanjin-based poet and translator. In 2019, he was shortlisted for the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared in Meanjin, Peril, Cordite, Stilts, Australian Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

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