From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 19, Summer 83, Full Moon

Riding the North Point Ferry
                                                   by Wing Tek Lum

Wrinkles: like
valleys etched by glaciers
lumbering coarse
and deliberate, random
traces pointing to
that vast, dark sea. The skin
is an ochre
of old corn, with
splotches of
burnt embers from a summer
of mountain fires.
The brown
from a lifetime of tea or
tobacco or both
has stained her
uneven teeth. Ears and nose
are small, pudgy,
and on each
lobe a little knob of gold
tacked on.
She sits with one
leg raised, tucked
into her body, the heel
supported by
the seat, her arm
resting on her
knee — unlady-like to be
sure, though
in her black garments
a relaxed pose. I glance at
her eyes, mottled
now with a chicken fat —
yellow in the
pupils, gazing out at the harbor,
the neon lights beckoning
from the Kowloon

was I prepared for this
face? Not
from the land of
my birth, with our museums,
glass cases filled
with the porcelain of ancient
dynasties, restauranteurs (cheeks
of cupidity)
proffering hot
and sour delights, our bookstores
extoling Shangri-las in
paperback — all to deny
our scrutable
lives. We believe
that somewhere in the world our
exotica is real. Images
of all fairy tale
maidens: clear-eyed yet
coy, hair pure
as silk, skin like jade,
the small hands so clever and
refined — and when
held in my own, how
warm, yielding to the touch!
They are
fiction: like the wind-blown
waves across this
ferry's bow, an inconstant
surface of
reflection, glittering, oblivious
to the swollen
depths below.

                                            I know
that outward appearances are
no judge for
virtue within. And
even this old
woman, combing her loosed
hair at dawn,
must sometimes wonder
at that mirrored form, peering
from those eyes. Does
she recognize
that dark glow as
her own? We meet so many
dreams, so many tales
of woe. Which
ones are true? Which ones
our alibis? So hard to

                              My grandparents
I recall sailed by
sea to settle in
that place we now call home.
I have crossed that
ocean too, flying this time
with the sun,
searching for a vision
for my own. The deck rocks gently.
By chance I find
myself beside this woman
on this crowded
boat: she is
for me reason enough to
have come here.

* * * * *

Bio: “I rode the ferry from North Point, whee I lived on Hong Kong island, over to Hunghom on the Kowloon side to court a schoolteacher who later became my wife.”

Mahalo for reading!

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