Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Another Week" by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor



Another Week
Mary Soon Lee

At the end of summer,
when Prince Keng was seven,
one week with his father.

One week of riding,
hunting, walking, climbing,
standing atop a limestone arch,
the grazing horses far below,
tiny as toys,
his father's hand
on his shoulder.

One week without school,
without people fussing
over his clothes,
without Ying or Chye
or his baby sister,
with his father
to himself--
except for his father's guards,
seven guards with them that week,
that almost the best part:
watching Atun shooting
from a galloping horse,
fencing with Captain Li,
helping them set up camp,
their conversations, their jokes
sometimes baffling
but never condescending.

One week of campfire suppers,
his father helping him
skin his first rabbit,
roasted pears, the smell of smoke,
Dao and Gan singing duets,
three warm nights sleeping on grass,
the patterned stars.

And the day they did nothing
but laze in a two-man fishing boat on a lake,
chatting and dozing in the heat,
jumping into the water to cool off,
the dip of the oars
rippling the still surface,
the lake's depths undisturbed,
his father wearing a conical bamboo hat
like a rice farmer;
a memory he dipped into, later,
time and time again,
unable to recall what they'd talked about,
only the easy back-and-forth of it,
and beneath, undisturbed,
his father's love.

Poet's Notes:  This is part of The Sign of the Dragon, my epic fantasy in verse. It is one of a handful of poems that focuses on the relationship between the king and his eldest son. Though the elements of my childhood were different from Prince Keng's, I too look back on the time I spent with my father on family holidays. My father was far from perfect, but I never once doubted how much he loved me. More poems from The Sign of the Dragon may be read at www.thesignofthedragon.com.

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