The Lover, At Last Allowed to Speak
When I think of what was, in the final account
lost to us, it is first the penjing trees that come to mind,
how she ritually rose to water them as the fishmonger
passed outside with song giving rise to evening,
how they, being non-deciduous, were ultimately
killed, overwhelmed by the water she offered daily.
Death by her bounty, it was indeed.
Such ecstasy was not my fate, of course; you, reader,
have learned of the subsequent marriage, imposed
by my father, a final act made in waiting for
the death of his body, to rejoin a spirit already passed.
In his decree there was room to draw from memory
the image of the shutter-lathe shadows violating
her as she moved quietly about my room, thinking
me asleep. I possessed no words at either moment,
only a depth of feeling I believed insurmountable.
But such was the time before the rise of the Party
and the fall of life manifest in sentiment, grace of gesture.
And though she had written me one hundred times, it
would always be this; I remain immortalized as L’Amant,
object, otherwise unnamed. Yet it was I who first created her,
and beautiful. It is this sense of desirability that she would
remember, its loss felt acutely in the fractures of alcohol and nicotine,
the amputations of age. Her story was written with my desire;
my life neither ends with her nor the lifting of her pen.
The union between me and the woman who was
a stranger, which she observed from the crowd-fringe
at the dock, unimpassioned as a tourist, was a successful
match by all accounts, giving rise to several generations.
We have become like run-off that has found the river,
at once forming co-centric rings in place and pushed
onward with the current. Our grandchildren whisper
of Tiananmen, caught up within their own story, of China,
attending the People’s desire as it eddies, and pools, like
the still water resting downstream of rocks on the Yangtze,
waiting yet for it to rise, its interminable voice to swell.
—Megan Muthupandiyan, Wauwatosa, WI