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.





Please reload


  • Black Instagram Icon

©2019 by Stilts Journal