Bring A Torch

for Isadora Filković

Because it was worth the trouble, all the trouble,
to memorise facial features you would never see again,
I asked him to bring a torch.

We tiptoed out of the house, where parents
were smoking & chatting in the hot parlour.
When each step we took became less shadowed,
he held my sweaty hand bejewelled with plastic rings.
His hand was small, too; but it cupped mine well.
I urged him to switch on the torch. ‘Not now,’
he said. He knew his maze-like forest.

That night, sitting on the dry grass, under a tree
that he said shall be named after me,
this stranger boy told me stories
of seeds bearing memories, volcanoes
that explode in people’s dreams, speaking cats,
fallen leaves that turn into fiery birds,
burning fountains inside our bodies.

Words. He said so many of them,
that I believed at the beginning was word.
Into the stuffy night he went on with his stories.
But I became sleepy, I begged him
to switch on the torch so I could look at him,
one more time, before dream took me. He did,
pointing it at me. Too tired to complain,
I let light be his face. Till day did we part.

I am sure if he hasn’t died,
he is now a man: his hands big and firm.
If he has stayed true to our childhood selves,
he might still be roaming in the wild, topless,
pointing a torch at something: better a wife
than a tree.

Ω

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming  Tammy Ho Lai-Ming's website is a Hong Kong-born writer currently based in London, UK. She is a founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.