The Bones of My Chinese Name：貝
This is the first stroke in my family name.
Grandfather arrives in the Americas in search
of a new life, but memories of his old life still linger.
The second stroke takes a turn with a hook.
Grandmother marries him with the agreement
to raise their children as Christians.
The third stroke is brushed within the first two.
His first born doesn’t learn the order
though the order runs through his veins.
The fourth stroke sees the birth of his daughter,
but Sunday school occupies her leisure time
like peonies and camellias occupy the bees in the garden.
The fifth stroke encloses the character.
The surname, however, is not complete.
He waits for the next generation.
The sixth stroke celebrates his sixtieth birthday
with peaches and noodle-filled bowls and the birth
of his first grandchild after a mid-autumn festival.
He brushes the last stroke on handmade rice paper
saved for me to carry his legacy,
and so I learn the art of calligraphy.
A Suicide Note
A row of rain doves resting on a telephone wire
extending from my home to yours
calls your name. I regret not calling sooner.
In my coffee, nimbus and mammatus clouds
float from this world to the next.
A note in the grounds transcends time to a place
where the Lady of Shalott weaves a tapestry.
I see your fears a coffee cup too late.
Your fate’s been composed
and all I can do is finish the poem.
Flashes of light and dark against my face
spin ‘round and ‘round the carousel—
divine pleasures and mundane sorrows.
I lost a friend who was looking
for a way out of his mothered misery,
lost in his own phobia,
living in a house of mirrors.
He broke his own reflection
until there was nothing left to break,
nothing more than a shattered spirit
for the reaper to take.
I found an abandoned automaton
who gave me what I needed
just when I dwindled with fear of desertion.
She jerked and flashed and sputtered my fortune:
Every silver lining has a cloud,
it’s up to you to flip your luck.
Ever since, I return to the Carnival
to ride the Ferris Wheel
and delight in the horizon
when the ride stops at its peak,
where I feel I am close enough
to reach and rattle the clouds
for rain and for thunder
to find my way out of an aching existence—
an overcrowded midway.
I comb the crowd for your voice—
soft as humming birds in the morning,
a distant midnight storm that lulls me—
for your pinned-up hair—dark
like black dahlias, with the scent
of cocoa on a winter night—
for your snow-white subtle smile—
that fills the promise of tomorrow
and the chapters of our past
through endless aisles and gates
of passersby going everywhere and nowhere.
The world unfolds like a dream
from which only you—an usher
in a universe of shadowless images—
can guide me.
Onnyx Bei is an undergraduate student at University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. His poetry has been published in Midtown Journal, Laurels Magazine, Red Cedar Review, Glass Mountain, and others. Literary accomplishments include the Susan T. Scanlon Scholarship in Creative Writing and the Danny Lee Lawrence Writing Award for Poetry.
Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.