• Clare

Across Time, A Child Wanderer

by Annie Ruohan Jiang


Wake up.

The child wakes up to herself – small, ingenious, confused. She stands alone in her bedroom – oh, the old one – they moved out of this apartment two years ago. She was too far away to be here on the moving day, though.

Now, it is dusk.

I interject prose with poetry to

Breathe.

More lightly,

In coloured arrays.

The gentle city is ready to mumble and shuffle from its midsummer afternoon; the earlier stillness, exhausted by the heat, shall soon dissolve into its inhabitants floating out or home. The child stands alone in her bedroom, indigo (her favourite colour), delighted (the French window opens to the distant descending brush of fire), and free.

Pixelate concrete with glass;

A city of window reflections hold light, like

Tessellated

Boiled sweets.

The Sun avoids melting them by

Staying afar.

Hansel and Gretel do not find this forest, so the sweets’

Wrapping papers –

Also glass,

Are kept safely, as if

Layered

Inside a jar.

Thus the Sun filters its warmth and fuzzy hues

Through the city’s windows;

Streaks of light blush over

Its discoloured noises.

Fast forward,

A future awaits the child:

A classroom rumbles numbers and some “Window Tax”.

The child chuckles.

So does the French window.

Aha!

They long know that they

Make the house vulnerable.

It is the wind, she thinks. It’s always the wind, who skitters across her room and childishly taps her on the shoulder, drifting a string of her hair and her thoughts towards the open air. The wind breathes towards the bookshelf this time.

Ah, the bookshelf.

The single most simple structure, bought from IKEA on that exhilarating trip to the Swedish meatballs. A white, plastic frame structured by three horizontals and verticals – a box likened to the smaller ones in which she first learnt to write down her language’s delicate characters. Then time moves on – the characters flow into phrases, sentences, then stories; the chalky frame, filled first by her parents then herself, coloured her entire childhood.

Weaver of memories,

Poetry collector.

As the child wanders through the forest of volumes,

Dust tiptoes into the sunlight.

Translucent,

The wonderer’s eyes.

And, at this, the child gazes back. She remains still. Why is she here?

A tragedy? An unscripted cue, a sudden loss – of the ability to understand the cause and rationalise its consequence; the inexpressible ripples of a shock so subtle and piercing, that their receiver is deprived of understanding.

A child? She, who steps forward trembling, light in her eyes, grows up.

Or maybe, this is simply a childhood clip. A pastiche of sudden acknowledgements – of the hovering scent, pitches of voices, glimpses of colours; it is as if the glass jar has just slightly shattered itself to allow them to escape. And one afternoon, the grown-up catches the drifting dust in front of the silent window; her body unmoved, while that unconscious observer turns around – too much water in her eyes.

And now, zooming back, a smile ripples across this child’s face. It is gentle enough to comfort her urge to fear.

By not understanding,

We step onto the path of Catharsis,

Enveloped in a single space of small, dark security.

Our inability to understand the causes of things casts

A shadow onto the light –

In the shape of ourselves.

And then we break. Out, up, from, for the peaceful self

In front of the delicately freezing window,

Stripped away from the sweet wrapping paper.

“Tragedy,

Doesn’t always help us make sense of things, but –

Helps us come to terms with the ways in which things don’t make sense.”

So she nibbles through the words,

Trudging the forest,

Across time.

But then time tenderly moves on. For, the child, on a different someday, will return as a traveller. She wanders the city, the window, the bookshelf – the space inside a fragile jar that cradles prose and poetry. A temporal dream and a brave childhood.

For sunlight will amplify the blue sky.

Autumn briskly waves by

Crispening footsteps,

Goldening pavements

Once walked by many.

And one freezing, overcast morning –

Ah,

A spark!


Wake up.

The child wakes up to herself – small, ingenious, confused. She stands alone in her bedroom – oh, the old one – they moved out of this apartment two years ago. She was too far away to be here on the moving day, though.

Now, it is dusk.

I interject prose with poetry to

Breathe.

More lightly,

In coloured arrays.

The gentle city is ready to mumble and shuffle from its midsummer afternoon; the earlier stillness, exhausted by the heat, shall soon dissolve into its inhabitants floating out or home. The child stands alone in her bedroom, indigo (her favourite colour), delighted (the French window opens to the distant descending brush of fire), and free.

Pixelate concrete with glass;

A city of window reflections hold light, like

Tessellated

Boiled sweets.

The Sun avoids melting them by

Staying afar.

Hansel and Gretel do not find this forest, so the sweets’

Wrapping papers –

Also glass,

Are kept safely, as if

Layered

Inside a jar.

Thus the Sun filters its warmth and fuzzy hues

Through the city’s windows;

Streaks of light blush over

Its discoloured noises.

Fast forward,

A future awaits the child:

A classroom rumbles numbers and some “Window Tax”.

The child chuckles.

So does the French window.

Aha!

They long know that they

Make the house vulnerable.

It is the wind, she thinks. It’s always the wind, who skitters across her room and childishly taps her on the shoulder, drifting a string of her hair and her thoughts towards the open air. The wind breathes towards the bookshelf this time.

Ah, the bookshelf.

The single most simple structure, bought from IKEA on that exhilarating trip to the Swedish meatballs. A white, plastic frame structured by three horizontals and verticals – a box likened to the smaller ones in which she first learnt to write down her language’s delicate characters. Then time moves on – the characters flow into phrases, sentences, then stories; the chalky frame, filled first by her parents then herself, coloured her entire childhood.

Weaver of memories,

Poetry collector.

As the child wanders through the forest of volumes,

Dust tiptoes into the sunlight.

Translucent,

The wonderer’s eyes.

And, at this, the child gazes back. She remains still. Why is she here?

A tragedy? An unscripted cue, a sudden loss – of the ability to understand the cause and rationalise its consequence; the inexpressible ripples of a shock so subtle and piercing, that their receiver is deprived of understanding.

A child? She, who steps forward trembling, light in her eyes, grows up.

Or maybe, this is simply a childhood clip. A pastiche of sudden acknowledgements – of the hovering scent, pitches of voices, glimpses of colours; it is as if the glass jar has just slightly shattered itself to allow them to escape. And one afternoon, the grown-up catches the drifting dust in front of the silent window; her body unmoved, while that unconscious observer turns around – too much water in her eyes.

And now, zooming back, a smile ripples across this child’s face. It is gentle enough to comfort her urge to fear.

By not understanding,

We step onto the path of Catharsis,

Enveloped in a single space of small, dark security.

Our inability to understand the causes of things casts

A shadow onto the light –

In the shape of ourselves.

And then we break. Out, up, from, for the peaceful self

In front of the delicately freezing window,

Stripped away from the sweet wrapping paper.

“Tragedy,

Doesn’t always help us make sense of things, but –

Helps us come to terms with the ways in which things don’t make sense.”

So she nibbles through the words,

Trudging the forest,

Across time.

But then time tenderly moves on. For, the child, on a different someday, will return as a traveller. She wanders the city, the window, the bookshelf – the space inside a fragile jar that cradles prose and poetry. A temporal dream and a brave childhood.

For sunlight will amplify the blue sky.

Autumn briskly waves by

Crispening footsteps,

Goldening pavements

Once walked by many.

And one freezing, overcast morning –

Ah,


A spark!






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