slang

i don't know how my ancestors walked to canada
over the miles of roads meant for travel faster than foot:
wagon paths of stone and mud with 10 chickens on their back,
there's a reason there are a billion bicycles in China,
great great grandfather must have had to file and sand his own knees
to bend them into perfect circles. how else could these roads be traversed?
meanwhile great great grandmother must have died of worry --
the worst sickness
unknown to the family
because telegraphs didn't span the pacific ocean.
and paper was expensive.
those chickens weren't yet money to buy rice,
and they were too skinny for eggs, not that we could eat shells, anyway.
but maybe we'll try.

did i forget?
how did he get to hong kong?
kowloon?
always the outer skirt of lady britain's domain,
never quite city familiar.

right,
because money's hard to spend,
when its locked in the white banker's savings.

i hear that the bridge lies beneath the waters,
foundations in ruins.
and someday i'll walk it
and meet grandma
on the other side.

children of canton

i thirst for the connection of language
that thing you so easily conceal
until a few drinks down
and you no longer care
"ngo-di hai loong jai"
we are bound by the same
name same shame same
hate, same insolence same (innocence)..
that the appearance and cadence
of whiteness
is what we strive for
but can never amount to

i wish i could speak like you
i wish my tongue had your wings
i wish i could touch the sky with an aerosol can
painting words like i've never known

f r e e d o m
j u s t i c e
l o v e
l i b e r a t i o n
l 
  i
    f
      e

&
reach into that bag of words
a trick or two.
a greeting. a phrase. an idea.

but until then,
i'll surround myself with police-action movies,
mandarin love songs..
and recreate what my family
could not give me.

family

just when my mind begins to race
imagining disasters in the ten-fold
tragedy unimaginable…

i remember that time moves slow enough
to catch yourself caught in the moment,
that ‘it’ is just right…

that mom’s hands never really age,
forever giving you enough to hold onto
if only wrapped around her one finger..
the first heartbeat you’d known

that dad’s tears are real badges of parenthood,
there when you screw up
and succeed… more than words,
saltwater lessons of life

that brother’s love is always there,
even when he was smarter, stronger, faster
he wasn’t trying to be better,
he just was…

that sister’s care is always stronger
than a proud defeat,
and she is always mother’s touch
even as miles – or inches – away..

and family is a root
a trunk
a branch

a leaf floating gently down
at the kiss of wind..

a wellspring of hope
a fountain of youth

a history, a language
and a name.

A thunder

Oh when i hear that southern drawl
The kind that originates
In the mother land,
the Wide East...

That language of tongue that is not
Tone alone, but slang and wit and
Whip-fast clever, a posture
and a history...

Do not mistake my polite nods
for empty listening.

That language creeps into me like a mountain rain,
drifting above freshwater pools and lakes of emerald
in an updraft,
collecting at the ridges and peaks that are
the bent
backs
of my ancestors

weighted down by law and conquest
they offer me their suffering
and call it a better life

on their steep slopes

salt drips crashing through the currents
of brownwater,
resting in pools and pristine waters
that would pose as the sky..


Here
between
cracked canyon smiles,
haunting granite faces:

i am  a rain
      a field

      A thunder

music is a language

With so many musicians and singers and bands out there, you’d think that all of music has been done already. You’d think that the same chord progressions and melodies should spin circles by now, ripping each other off. But they don’t. At least not quite.

Music is a language. Like Spanish or Cantonese or Arabic, it’s got a set of rules. When you know the rules you can bend the rules like in poetry, producing beautiful new combinations. Like math, there are certain patterns that enrich the senses and incite curiosity and wonder. I think it’s a matter of choosing your words precisely, using only what is needed to communicate the message.

I can sit for hours playing the same three chords on guitar. It’s just fascinating the type of sounds that I can produce. One very special moment in my life is when I get the inspiration to write a new song. I’ve only written two full songs, but the feeling of putting new or old combinations together in my own way is a feeling like no other. Stumbling into chords and melodies, there is a critical period where I like to just let the music emanate. Let it experience life in the physical world for the first time. Before I can give a song words, it gives me silence.

The same chords seem to have a certain chemistry together, and even though you take different songs composed of the same chords, they are different. Because chords are like words. And music is a language. And the feelings and ideas behind them are not bound to them. They travel through them. This is language used properly: breaking limitations and pushing boundaries. Freeing.