Going Home - Jennifer Lee Tsai

I

On this cobalt night, the 15th day of the 8th month,

the moon is a perfect circle, bone-white.

Look closely, that dark speck

on the surface is the moon-goddess, Chang’e.

 

In ancient times, there were ten suns

scorching the earth.

The archer, Houyi, shot down nine of them,

received two elixirs of immortality.

 

One day, his wife found them, swallowed both,

floated upwards into the sky,

her robes flowing behind her.                        

She became air and light and sound.

 

II

                                                                   

On such a night, Li Po dreamt of his home.

The harvest moonlight glimmered

in his room like frost on the ground.

Trying to capture the moon’s reflection in a lake,

 

he died, one of the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup,

just as you, my father, always longed for your home

on late nights fuelled by whisky, hieng-ha – your village.

I wondered where this was, what China was like,

 

listening to stories you told me. In Guangdong,

you used to skip school, escaping, to catch fish

in the stream. I remember the painting you had:

a Chinese junk across a sunset harbour

 

and the picture from Hong Kong you gave me.

Two pandas – a parent clasping its child

on a celadon background. Bamboo, mountains

in the distance. To the side; black ink calligraphy.

 

III

 

Father, on the 15th day of the 8th month,

I returned. And where is the heart?

I wonder, as I retrace my steps back in time

to a grey Liverpool, nothing out of the ordinary,

 

arriving home on an 80A bus down Rose Lane

that Saturday afternoon to find you slumped

in your leather armchair – a yellow fleece

caught over your head like a net.

 

You said you’d be travelling the world,

perhaps among the sapphire rivers, pagodas,

jade mountains and lotus flowers of your youth…

I have been away so long, and you will be leaving soon.

 

Jennifer Lee Tsai, ‘Going Home’ was previously published in Ten: Poets of the New Generation (Bloodaxe, 2017)