the spiritual aristocrat 2: for Rita/Zhihua

the story of how
you got your English name
you told me one day
a native English speaker teacher
you had at university
couldn’t pronounce all the names
of your classmates and you
that Zhi especially being troublesome
so he put all his favorite names
in a hat
or two hats actually
one for boys, one for girls
and you all picked a name
yours was Rita
and when I asked
why didn’t you change it
to one you liked better
you said no need
I’m used to it now
I remember driving you all over
looking for countryside
so you could photograph animals flowers trees
for the 3 photography classes you took
at Columbia
you would take forever
focusing
before snapping the picture
and the one time in South Dakota
when that buffalo charged you
you got too close
you loved that trip
the herd of wild horses
in North Dakota
the hours you spent
taking pictures of prairie dogs
vacationing in Maine
you would eat 2 lobsters for dinner
never tiring of shell fish
and the weekly dinners
with the Taiwanese
Ranan Phoebe Jerome Theresa Joseph and Snow
my famous lasagna
your shrimp and chives & eggs
the karaoke nights
at the Taiwan Center
your lovely voice in Mandarin
reciting Song Dynasty poems with Ranan
or singing Teresa Teng songs
your kindness to others
the thought you put into each gift
your obsession with detail
in every part of your life
from home decorations
to your preparation for work
to the attention paid to friends
and how my mother loved you
your fried rice a hit
at every holiday dinner
and at NCC
your Saturday morning conversation classes
the petitions students wrote
praising your discussions
your qualities as a teacher
how you would steal my Santa hat
at the annual Christmas dinners
your only fault perhaps
your driving record
but one can’t be perfect
in everything
though you ever the perfectionist
certainly do try
and finally
it’s about values
what you deem important
who you associate with
it comes down to
that old Chinese saying
you told me
you either fly
with the eagles
or stay on the ground
with the chickens
and when I see you
in my mind’s eye
during lulls in my day
I see you soaring
high above this petty world

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