Abing Addresses the Shadow of the Camphor Tree


Abing Addresses the Shadow of the Camphor Tree


Tonight, Brother, there’ll be no more secrets
between us. No easy dreams to yield to

to sing this life away. I shall speak to you
as a cinched echo to the green ghost

of a ripple, as one spurned exile to another.
All day, the bow of my erhu burned sweetly

against the twin strings & made them sigh
like the fishing line my father cast out

years ago, cleaving the summer air with a clean
swoosh to hook the mouth of a silver trout

& isn’t all music, in essence, a hunger—the kind
that polishes the spirit to a lush spark

like a match scratched into light? I’ve been told
that I house a cold soul. Let me guide you

to Him, a missionary once said to me
in his efficient Chinese, his voice furred

with the lure of pity, Let the Lord lift you
into His light. But I’ve always loved

darkness—even before my eyes were silenced
—as darkness must’ve always loved me, guarding me

at night in her clumsy mothering. Forgive
me, Brother. Memory numbs my mouth

like this jar of plum wine. The wind here is full
of apologies though it has a wicked tongue. Listen

as it turns a phrase now, how it erases the moon’s
annotation on the river’s darkening margin.



Note: This poem is part of a series of poems about the life of the blind Chinese folk musician, Abing (1893-1950), famed for his erhu performances.

Gavin Yuan Gao

Author: Gavin Yuan Gao

Gavin Yuan Gao is a Brisbane-based poet and translator. He has received a Pushcart Prize nomination for his poetry and is a finalist in the 2019 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Meanjin, The Cincinnati Review, Plumwood Mountain, Stilts, Hobart, and elsewhere.

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