Christopher Li

Edition XXVIII

On Endings - by Christopher Li (Photo by Farhan Siddicq)Photo credit: Farhan Siddicq

On Endings (from a kitchen in Paris)

By Christopher Li

When things end they go quietly 
They don’t go boom 
Or bang their way clunkily through the hall 
When they end they just end
There’s no grand commotion
Like when I left my home
Or when I left another city
I waited for the boom, the snap, the noise
I tried to create one with every person I knew
But it just fizzles slowly out back to calm
Even when things go quick 
Like when my dad left
Even in those little moments
They went slowly and calmly
We weren’t calm, nor quiet,
We railed, we screamed, we woke the neighbors
But he ended slowly
Like all things 

Edition XXIX

TempleLilies_AlannahBowesPhoto credit: Alannah Bowes

Temple Lilies in Kochi

By Christopher Li

“It’s beautiful this place, the way things
grow from the muck,” is exactly what they would have said,
if no one had ever seen the underside of lily pads.
The light barely makes it way down to the sandy silt below.
The flowers and pads, for all their beauty,
are a tangled mess, gnarled and clawing at each other
contesting the light.

You would say this was the most beautiful place,
the lake afoot an old stone wall,
the lilies probably just as old as the stones themselves.
My, how they have grown from such a stagnant thing,
emerald green pads and flowers of weightless pink.
The visitors always stop briefly, the wise ones at least,
to be with the beauty. It almost feels like an old painting
I would have seen in a book somewhere.

There’s a story of a boy visiting this lake. The lily pads
nearly big enough to hold his weight. How he admired them,
flowers, each so large and delighted with themselves. But also quiet
and happy to be amongst their confidantes.
He felt like he could speak to them. 
His puerile smile, still heavy with young cheeks,
was like the flowers, and he the lake.

The story goes that on one of his many days on the shore
he tried to step on to the lilies. He figured the immense pad
could bare him. He stepped from one pad to the other
before the lilies enveloped him.
He fell beneath their green tops, the water pulled at his waist,
and filled his pockets with sand, the roots of the lilies were like anchors,
he was pulled down until the very things he loved blocked the sun entirely from him.
Oh how onerous it must have been
to learn of the woe beneath the green.

It is said he realized what it meant to be a lily that day
and that the boy himself became one.

Edition XXX

Evolution - by Christopher Li (Photo by Hakim El Haj)Photo credit: Hakim El Haj


By Christopher Li

In her home there is a small golden Buddha
sat directly inside the veranda, to welcome you- clearly, honestly.
I never asked her why I would always find crumbs and wilting fruit at his feet
like a permanent part of the statue.
Seeing I had paid the entry toll in confused looks,
they were offerings for the journey into the next world,
she would tell me eventually.

So many days I’ve paid my debt to you
in cups of over sweetened tea,
French toast, with stale bread,
sandwiches that seem harder and harder to find
and more complicated to make,
in long hours, slow mornings, elastic nights.

I have a photo of you in my kitchen that we took a few years before you died;
You’re in your long gray hoodie
holding the big meat cleaver that I had bought from the Chinese supermarket
You’re smiling.

I lost the hoodie
I have the cleaver
The smile is around here somewhere.
The crumbs, the wilted fruit, the cups of tea,
they never go.

Edition XXXI

At The Bar - by Christopher Li  (Photo by Craig Whitehead).jpgPhoto credit: Craig Whitehead

At The Bar

By Christopher Li

There she was, sitting at the dark oak bar,
high top stool to match her high top boots, and her high brow look
There was something about her,
the swish of the metal brush across the jazz drum,
the quiet choreography of the saxophone
that tap danced across the old wood
seemed to linger in the air around her,
You’d even believe the light would bend over her shoulder too
just to see what a girl like her was drinking
When she emptied her glass
he wondered if she was like that crystal, drops of alcohol and warm melted ice
mixed together, diluted, something that used to be strong
or if she was more like spiced rum
rummaging now down in her belly
screaming to push that soft music away from her
and dance loudly;
It seemed to suit her
or what he thought of her at least,
the disjointed music,
the yellow street light coming in through the window,
She was a mystery,
He liked that.

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