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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