an empty spot

boats glide by
on the sea
the sun hot
on my neck
kids play football
on the lawn
beyond the bench
where I sit
a dog rolls over
sunning his belly
and a group of men
build a fire
to roast kebob
though there is peace
in the air
yet there is still
an empty spot
where your hand
should be

the spiritual aristocrat 1: for Zhihua

this is the hardest one to write
since what we are
keeps changing
these 20 odd years
but you have been a presence
in my life
since that day before class
when you stood in front of the room
arms folded
head cocked to the side
listening to the questions
and then at the board
demonstrating the meaning of Chinese characters
so confident
it was a surprise
for you sat so quietly
listening to the others in the seminar
not bored like me
but intent
and now
many years later
I value that ability of yours
to listen as well as speak
and wish I had listened more
to the advice you gave
for you can be more objective
though sometimes too judgmental
at least in the past
but you are
after all
an aristocrat in spirit
and thus tend to bestow advice
kernels dropping from your mouth
you are so knowledgeable
about so many things
literate and cultured
you embody the classic Chinese concept
of an eclectic mind
of values and principles
how upset you would become
with people who did not know
the history of countries they visited
or who couldn’t appreciate
the beauty of a vase
people who see us
know us
think of us as a couple still
but though looks are deceiving
we are more than that
family
we have become that
and though I continue to go
stubbornly down a path
of my own choosing
you have grown accustomed
to my absence
the hole that is left
a hole I feel too
for you are missed more
than anyone else
the theatre we went to
Off and On Broadway
the shared opera season
the Bolshoi Ballet
concerts at Carnegie Hall
those late night movies
once, twice a week
driving into Manhattan
hunting for a parking space
then catching a 10pm show
tea afterwards at your house
the bottle of wine you always opened
just for me
the slices of fruit
the mooncakes
the food you put aside
for me to take home
like my mother would do
you were constantly feeding me
your cooking is something I miss
almost as much as the conversation
and the food I associate with you
Peking Duck
and Szechuan style scallops
seaweed salad with sashimi
watching you browse in gourmet food markets
who knew there were so many cheeses
in this world
and remembering your curoisity
still makes me smile
we would have to stop
in every gift shop in Bar Harbor
or try pastries in countless cafes
in Vienna
and I still miss the Chinese markets
the frogs in plastic tubs along the wall
the eel slithering in water
the fresh fish laid out on ice
and rows of vegetables
star fruit and lechee nuts
and dim sum in Flushing
chicken feet and shrimp dumplings
how every waiter seemed to know you
we always got special desserts
you cooked spaghetti with tomato sauce
my last night in New York
and when I drove away that night
I felt an era close
more than Johnny crying
or Steve’s farewell embrace
leaving you in Bayside
was like losing a part of my history
even now
on the phone
it’s hard to hang up
and when I do
I sit in silence
mourning the bridge I burnt
the life I left behind
or at least the part of it
that you occupied

facebook pictures

as I post pictures in albums
of trips I’ve taken
this past year
I find they are devoid
of people
or at least a person
who I would imagine
standing there
filling the frame
with her presence
and though there is no name
nor face
to that presence
I miss her
just the same