POEM: lantern festival

BY ROGER PAO

In a muted vocabulary, breath-taken, through Pound Hall windows,the seamless, rain-slicked evening wavers headlights like a Broadway show.

Each periodic change of stoplights, breaking into release, upon the neontexture of city traffic, shifts to and fro against an ebony landscape, in a song

mosaic with bewilderment, filled with drivers as gallant, peculiar, facelessas human dragon chains in Monterey Park, California, where placeless

Chinese dissidents drink it up for one more afternoon. Past sundown, the schoolyear shimmers, recedes through the urban night, its medium-cool

hands against my sweater, as I gaze through the glass panels of Pound 101, pondering a cup of coffee, mornings full of blackboards, the azure sun

expanding crisply onto a highlighted casebook, upon rows of florescent pink, orange, lavender, yellow. Several classmates chat behind me, the link

between their voices and my solitude waning gradually, submerged underthe honks and squeals of an Earth removed from text, the figurative thunder

of an all-too ghastly beautiful parade of trucks, formed in half-ghostly mollusks,curving through my palette, beyond statutory confinement, beyond the husks

of ancient cases, with their glistening exoskeletons, perched above the carpeting of the New World. We are marching into the arms of a certain love

with no way to return. I am no longer a child of holidays. I can barely claimto have loved the Taipei Lantern Festival, in Chang-Kai Shek Plaza, the same

one held annually on the fifteenth evening of the first moon, as a child, pointing at sky lanterns, grabbing clementine slices at my grandmother’s house, anointing

the soon-to-be-dawn with tang yuan, marching through a neighborhoodfull of electric and bamboo lanterns of zodiac animals. The children who stood

with me, shoulder to shoulder in the Plaza, must be my age now,half grown out of memory, half grown into the same modernity that endows

Massachusetts Avenue, if you look closely, with a stream of lanterns, red-tasseled, green-red-green-bodied, spherical, alive, whimsical, as each color turns.

by roger pao

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