If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jill Chan: Doubt

I am picking up my pen at last. Somebody I didn’t know said to me once face to face. We were having lunch. He had just decided to be told something. I heard him say to me: You could write about your life and make a lot out of it. I didn’t write much after that. My life isn’t easily told being how silent everything is–I looked and looked at him, and he turned like a life about to be someone. And I turned again–as him and me–until both of us were nothing but the other, separate as two answers without a thinker.

Outside, there is a world attending to those who know they want. I am doubtful of everything lately: the colour of my eyes, now darkening. Then the light written by his eyes.


I am not going to put the date. Every year is similar in ordinary beauty. Something could break apart and it would still mean.

I met a man so gentle, he could kill me without his gentleness.

Last night, I was gentle in a night against which nothing could be put down, not even time with our restlessness between our toes. Something tried and we got away with that trying.

I went to the place he said he lived and we couldn’t be moved.


There was a man who I could recognise in any doorway. He waved his hand as any man with an entrance would. What a coincidence! Two people with hope on their faces.

One would not be hope to the other. I am that predictable at last. The stage of belief, like forgetfulness, is drawn to him.

There was a man who I could recognise and never regret.


He is so secretive now I hardly know myself.

He is the type who will tell you he is no one in particular. Then the next second, your years converge like childhood. And he is a child with the widest smile. His most defective purpose is his ability to charm.

Then you will look and look for him between your harm and the poise he carries in you.


I am suddenly worried. No reason.

He can be reason yet challenge nothing. I am not in my element today. As usual, confused though not without borders.

What happens slowly considering all who reside in us dim and darken, like a thought?

And even the gentle who surrenders to nobody, claims the rest. I am living and he is the part of me I can feel.


I feel funny today.

When he has been that way before me, falling like a glance that held sway. Who is there anyway but my indecision?

Both of me might meet in him. He'll perhaps recall how in a difficult time, I had no one, and he had no one he didn't already have.

Like something funny isn't really but today will be.


He doesn't show anger except when nothing is wrong.

Yesterday in a light moment, I made the mistake of smiling. He smiled back with all the back of a smile, like so.

Great things are made in such moments when expectation becomes someone's slight and another's revelation.

Well, at least and at last, someone is angry and nothing is going on.


He wants so much. Not me, of course. Not things either. Or anyone.

He loves so much to want I think it is quite reasonable for me to defer, to survive all this forwards and backwards, this thought that outlives striving.

He seems so cool in his self no one dares to feel, out of reverence, out of sheer love of difference. After all, how do we survive the dead inside us?


This is not fiction. Well, maybe it is.

I was told my father named me after my grandmother who was a famous actress and a saint.

What is a name anyway but something we live with after so little has left us? Nothing to trouble us.

A friend asked me what my middle name is. I said nothing. I don't attend to questions like that, failing to disturb even myself.


When he was very good, he would believe this of himself. During weeks with him like this, it was like being on top of everything, including himself which he was nice to, becoming fortunate and trusting.

The tests came continually though–The doubts that he was human, with a propensity to believe others, their praise, the secret that he was at best, unwilling to be fooled.

I didn’t know whether to be happy that he was, or to be happy that I was fooled by his strength.


I still couldn’t understand any of it. Of course, he was great–as great as he allowed himself to think so. I remember now how I didn’t have to look into his eyes to be blinded.

I heard you snapping your fingers in another part of the world. Someone as mesmerised by him as I was.

Each of us trying; each of you waiting. To be fooled by some idea of love, bewitched by nothing, which of course, he wasn’t at all.


As I've said, some things here are not fiction. As if anything is less so when it deals with fact.

Right now, my cheeks are cold–I've been dizzy at times these days like breath has been taken out of me.

I am alive–fact.

They decide which life to take–fact or fiction, you choose.

I've been bemoaning my fact, wanting it to be less than they impose.


He climbed and climbed, never reaching the top. He was much too ambitious. Concern and ambition like two directions he needed to gather into a point.

That which points cannot be the point, ever.

Somewhere else, someone knows only to follow. Nothingness like a space that surrounds and escapes to a breath. And height is but height. Something to attain and fall from.


I am still wondering about time, while he does not. Time is a line to be travelled, like a journey but never ends with having enough.

First, something, then nothing. Then something and nothing are unrecognisable to us. A danger, perhaps, or a way to be enough.

This is all in using up time. A rather than.


Today, I want to keep it short.

I told someone once that I don’t want to fall in love. It disrupts composure and promises nothing but texture, promise, corruption. Not to mention confidence without truth, passion without recourse.

I said I want to keep this short.

He is the only ample man I’ve met–enough for everyone. Sometimes he disappears simply so as not to admit his goodness.

In fact, I suspect he has no idea he is good.


I've always wondered about his names. I found nothing common about them, nothing in common with indecision.

Dare I say he is clever and cold with choosing?

Well, exactly mentionable. Perhaps, slightly nervous like I am with my one name, neither proper either.

Even I am unsure of a fullness in my name. Which middle? Is there a ground there or unjust generations up in the air?


It is all so normal, the state of his mind. When did he start to be this risky? No, not about danger. He's past that for now.

But the business of coming to his own body, listing his things among the missing, too far to be himself.

They tell him to stand up; he is past stubborn but still hands it to them. His ache now closed tight and delirious with peace.

What a day this is, uncompromising and sensuous with giving. There's something I adore. It's odd. He's generous and, for the first time, I am too. But not about that, not about that at all.


I keep thinking about how you cheapen everything I do. I mean it as a compliment, though you might not take it like that.

I look at my work and feel proud of it sometimes. Comparison is the least I could do when you (really you, not an indirect way of saying myself) are always above that.

Anyway, I am being absurd. That's something real talent does to me.


Well, I wanted to reply to your honesty but it was too late. Now, you are starting to show it. I am what is uncertain in that starting.

In spite of this, you are destined to become my truth, a house once lived in and memorised without a thing to place.

Your abstractions are my colour; your tenacity borders faith for what it can do.


Of course, I am allowed to think of someone else. Only there is no one else.

There was one who could only talk to me when he was someone else. The trouble began when I liked him for who he wasn't. Whose fault was it then? The person he wasn't? Or the person I was when he wasn't there?

That first meeting, I didn't see him for what he could be. That makes two of us. I, who am always myself, split into one who liked him for many.


You, though, are different. I could recognise you though you try so hard to elude similarity. The other day, for the last time, I was doubtful of how I've done that.

It's not fate–Too much of it kills enthusiasm and breeds worry.

It's not romantic love either. At least not only that. Certainly not up there with romance.

It's not love either. At least not only that. Certainly not up to love.

But soul? I am unsure of it beyond how it sounds to me.


How do we prevent from turning into our persecutors, our own perpetrators?

A friend—he is handsome and intelligent—said once, We do to others who have done unto us. That is not ideal or a backward look at compassion. It is a fight won by many.

And multiplies a thousand a day.

I cannot look at this and say nothing, or do anything.


One lesson I did not learn from you: To be satisfied with being. I could, but to that end, I'd miss everything.

Even then, teaching does not do to the heart what it learns.

A teacher hasn't much to teach but how he does it simply by his firsts and the features of his world which I, or anyone else, could never round.


I don't know, I am glad today. There is nothing to be glad about. Perhaps that is why.

I have saved reasons for another season (I know! This writing on paper is incredibly dull). Today, I am neither. You would laugh at my minor insurrection.

I am even a touch, a rhyme that discloses for all except you.

You know me today as when I was born.

Reason-Season-Reason. Whatever I am, I give to you.


I don't care that you reject me. I am willing. I am fevered with you. I am healthy with longing, as far as a soul can.

I don't think. My body is at rest with caring. No love or lust. Tenderness or rendering.

Dare I mention him again to you? He has taken all my belongings. Both of you with the benefit I don't own, I envy your mutuality as much as my soul can.


To describe the first time I saw you, let me bore you with this confession:

It was a sorrow so complete, I was left as before without my sorrow.

Time did not stand still. I hurried back to where I was foolish in my gladness.

And no future dared show itself. I wanted to be there though—I, who was always in the never, found a month in which to pull through.


Do you remember I asked you if you knew a few words in my native language?

You said you did and said a few.

I'm sure it was strange to speak with your tongue my language—one I hardly use these days having had days with none but the talk—inquisitive minds want to know but once, while devotion hears a command and follows, still devoted.


Don't stop. You don't need to but know to continue. Nothing else does it so aimlessly.

Beauty, delight, love, mercy. You made these without a thought for yourself.

We try to reach you, speaking your word though you are so patient to test our impatience.

We who cannot be taught—incorrigible!—without you.


You never appear. I suppose that is the point of it all. Someone who needs you like this should see that you are never meant to.

The trees stand there for you.

The rivers flow here for you.

And all matters because this is not waiting if what we do is wrapped up with you.


Some gods jump up and down when we don't notice them.

You, the Creator, are both hot and cold. You waste nothing of our time.

In winter, you pale into us because we regret too much; in a moment, uneven with us.

In summer, you desire the fire which you've freely given–for some of us to burn; for some of us to turn to you.


Another confusion? I could not face one again so soon after the last which made me lose nothing I already own.

This latest you—It is not a comment about you, exactly, but what I would diffuse—These explosions of forces neither of us needed.

I didn't think of you like that today. And I didn't try. Don't know if that's an improvement.

Perhaps faith should remain faith. And doubt, reserved for the love of the faithful.


You have spared me. Without my selfishness, I am the willingness you abandoned or think you took up.

All my life, people said they care.

And I care about the wrong people. Men who needed me to like them too much. Women friends who never disagreed.

That must be it. I don't need calmness, or the ability to look into nothing—Agreement of self with self is but blindness, if not pride.


I think I understand now. Though you are the understanding I could not seem to get to, or get over. I am always humbled by your equanimity, your ability to be at once radiant and dark. To mock and let the audience laugh at themselves.

Surely, you see me now as I am, like they say in the movies.

And all I can see of you is a wonderful person. Generations are too wrapped up in replicating themselves to catch a glimpse of someone who cannot rest, who cannot think of himself as others do.


What can I say, you are mean! See, even in meanness you are terribly wonderful.

But the one for which this is meant (you) will never see it. You have too much soul and gentleness to accept this gross comment.

I like his eyes—for the way you are handsome. Your mind—for the way you are thinking but do not let it show. Real depth, real compassion. I leave this you to him and you.


I am saying once again: It started with faith, and will end with Faith. With so many titles in between.

Anyway, what has all this entailed?

As usual, we have been taught nothing but what we've learned.

True, it is a mess, as we all are in being, in guessing which portion of our lives is faithful, which retells it as if we don't dare.

I don't want to sound pretentious and insincere but again, I say to you and him; to him, especially: Go to each other. There will be chances but nothing like a faith held by the mutually faithful.


And oh! A note about pronouns: I referred to you as 'him' until you are familiar enough to be 'you' and 'he' became the you you were. But I couldn't be sure myself which is which sometimes. Am I I or not?

This is so dumb! I hear you laughing or not. It depends on you.

All I know—you as a beautiful person. I know you cringe at that.

I have cringed at everything some of the time.


There must be a limit to God's love. Or so, we think. We cannot think otherwise. Otherwise, we are not human, or are so filled with God it is difficult to escape Him.

Right now, I am sitting here writing this.

God must be somewhere busy. I'd like to think He loves the world so much, He cannot rest until we are truly human and believe He is helping us.


God is watching us all. If He were human, I'd be very afraid. Just think of the consequences of that. Then, He would use every bad and good thing He sees against us.

And not everything can be seen but He knows that too.

He would be powerful but not omnipotent. Omnipotence is not power but Godly power. From the True God. Infallible. Not a play at being God which human gods do so failingly while not knowing it.


Although I am quite sure so much of the time about God, something has made me doubt Him. I think it is a healthy sort of doubt. I would rather be doubtful than be blindly faithful.

Nothing like wanting to understand and failing. Is that a wish or a desperation?

I think it makes me vulnerable. And maybe we need more of that, I don't know.

I want to look and doubt myself in what I know. To doubt what I know.


Sometimes when I go outside, the sky dizzies me. I have been inside so long, I would be my depravity.

But God (really God) is the sky we have, no matter.

And I don't think anybody would doubt the sky? I could call it wanting, or you could call it place. Motion or action, both. It is there. He is there in our disagreement.


It is sometimes easy to find a quality in others. I think after we find that in enough people, and in ourselves, we look for it and either never stop looking, or we give in to its place. What a relief when that moment comes!

And the right mix in the right people. How rare and uncompromising that can be.

This sounds like complete nonsense. Anyway, just reminding myself of what I can't do. Or what people can't manage to build.

I'm not going to say anything about creation or evolution.


I come back always to utility. I think, perhaps, if we look into something so immense and feel helpless against it, against ourselves with it, then our smallness, weakness might be useful, finally.

Then, people would seem to us people, not their usefulness for us.

A teacher once told us, “Use things, not people.” Ignorant as I was then, it has remained with me. Wisdom has no use other than this.


He said, Who is it?

If only we could be as he is, old and alert to our uniqueness without our names. I think we would hold both freedom and love.

And perhaps try to love without the terrible selfishness of choosing.

He loves now and evens out love in forgetfulness.


I am undecided. The pull is strong, like a force, except I am not convinced of my worth. You know, at this moment, happiness is pushing me up.

Is it like this, being with you? I mean I wouldn't know.

And I won't be persuaded by your decision even if I am helpless, as we all are when we are.

Happiness, you are my mind, right now. But only that. Nothing else.


I thought of forsaking and writing this for later. So as not to be too lonely with myself. But, you know how it is, no waiting for heaven, and no asking for hell.

Proper to be nothing else but left alone, for now. Like now can be.

I am not me any more than the next me tomorrow, when it comes to you or me.


I'm sorry. I mean it this time. You have to understand: All my life, lies have evaded me, then truth. It is easy for faith to become doubt, and doubt, faith.

But I really understand you now, my brave one. I who am you.

Let us cool this iron into love. And touch ourselves.


It is easier for gods; we who are under you, cannot think without you listening. How can I think, or say, or write otherwise?

It is all open, as our brothers would say.

But, I will not write anymore.

As I said, you are the brave one. And I mean that.

I will give you all I’ve written and stop. All is survival here now. Hope you understand.

And if that happiness isn’t you, then I’m sorry. I have no way of telling, being here and surrounded by air. It is all guesswork.

And what was that poking around the moment before? Was that you? (A joke. I'm saying it straight so you won’t take it the wrong way.)

I don’t doubt you now, only the faith I misunderstood earlier today. For a life (mine) bereft of faith, and too much lately, doubt was all I had in those few minutes (earlier today). Understand that.

Be safe, my brave one. Sorry for the trouble.

And you were great! Says she, smiling. Don’t worry about me.


But now, a few hours later...

You are still great. But you know where I am.

But I hope it was you I was answering. Because I am never sure these days. We are controlled, alright, by everyone it seems.

Except, perhaps, you. The real you.


This is turning into fact, this figuring out.

Earlier today, I was thinking about poetry. And thought I’d write about the people across the street I hear crying some nights, distressed cries. Then I thought, if I write it as a poem, readers might think it is a metaphor. So I wrote it nonetheless and I worry about misrepresentation, meaning, truth, mortality, darkness, light, etc.

I say this to myself mostly or to other people.


I said some things to you earlier today. Don't know if you heard it. I believe in miracles these days but am afraid. You know how sometimes we don't think enough. On other days, too much to much. But always of the same things, of different weight.

Notice how I am lightening this up! Or else I'd be down low again.

But truly, I am very mean. I talk of the future as if it wets the present. And nothing of appetite. The past? I've never left it. You are still here.

I meant what I said. I felt what I said before and earlier, today and yesterday.

But tell me plainly: Is there still a you? Can I still fill your name with anything I say from here on?


Right, I am certainly near death. I practically had to sit very still and turn my head every few minutes, look out the room to see if they are coming! To get me, that is.

Anyway, I will continue to keep watch today.

But it's my father's birthday. Or my grandfather's, I can't remember. Yes, I am that confused.

But, I still have my head, at least. Hope to be more satisfied later with my own depravity, or is it deprivation? I always get the two mixed up. As usual.


I’m still a bit exhausted. But better now.

So, have not been reading much. Nor writing.

Now this sounds like a real, boring diary, finally!

To all my friends. Yes, you. Forgive me if I haven’t been figuring out your things. My flesh is tired and the Spirit follows in tiredness.

I repeat though. You have my faith.


I don't think this is a good sign. Now I think about you more often than I do anything else. I've never been like this before. I have but everyone is you so that doesn't really count, does it?

Let me go back to you undoing every me. Nothing physical.

Just a gentle uncovering of myself in such absence, or a presence that makes one submit.


I guess I just had to test my own Faith. And nothing could make me change that. Not even you, the many marvelous dangers, each gaining for me much of what I’ve lost for myself.

But I understand. But Faith is stronger than understanding–ours or yours or mine.

I know if Faith or material were not in the way, it will all be different as far as any difference can still be bridged even in this dark that doubles as light.


I imagine you—that's all I have of you now—they are loud again.

Whenever I do this, it is as if there is some negative aspect of myself I throw away. Somehow a newness not unlike a sense of mystery. A soundness to the sense of remembering.

And there you are, silent in my own wonder of you.

I want to remind you though—this is all in the spirit of thinking, and everything thought which can still be held.


I must be succeeding. After a lifetime of saying what I mean, as much as I can, I am learning to pretend. In order to survive mostly. You must know that.

But this is not one of my new masks. My mind is full of so many songs. Don't get me wrong.

Ten years ago, even the music was pretending. Now I get past that quickly, without much anger, maybe with a little bit of sadness still. Can anybody get past that, being sad?

And try hard to focus on real people. People around me, or people who really are.


I lay down on my brother's bed because my own was hard and uncomfortable. His bed smells so nice. I nearly slept like a baby but remembered not to, just in time.

God must be like a nice brother or a nice bed. Comfortable to some, and hard and sleeping to others.

Now I go back to any bed, just to remember to sleep.


I get excited when some things we've given away—like a satisfaction or a desperation, or even something as mundane as a poem, a failing, or as sick as a habit—come, not running, but are slowly revealed to us.

We think—Wasn't I the one who said that to him? Or, that should be credited to me, or some such nonsense.

But then we are just so glad we've rediscovered them in their excitement, not for us—not that at all, but for our happy forgetfulness, our generosity, or more appropriately, theirs.


I marvel at the clothes you wear and the body that goes with them. How could I have been so blind without blindness!

Handsome, dark with me always. I would rather you'd shown me your blindness—to my mind or body, and dress. It didn't matter to you but it would to a future me.

We must all ask God for His charity.

And the Grace to be apart from Him yet still be His, like a beloved or a lover.

Instead, we ponder this: What do You want?

And mean it terribly. Tired from a tiredness not of spirit but of time and the things we have to do like keeping a body, or waiting for it to be beautiful.


I knew H who liked walking with me. One day I noticed that he nearly shivered when he looked at my bare feet.

I found that quite touching. In fact, I still find that so adorable! Not childlike but odd. And quite a sexiness to it I can't describe.

Anyway, enough about this, though I am glad.

He would sometimes get angry for no reason (as far as I could tell). And being dumb and unpoetic then, I just let it go. Not sure if I regret anything. Maybe not.


Before I read any poetry, L made an artwork about a poem, and D made another artwork about the same poem.

I liked both of their art. But the poem which inspired it eluded me for as long as I was indignant and secure with words. That is strange to me. Being a writer of poems now (if you could call what I write that) has made me ever more ambiguous and uncertain.

And to think about most of the teachers, how they keep telling us poetry will tell us something; I humbly prefer to be perplexed when reading poetry, to be required into substance, to disappear toward, whatever—a weakness, a love not of words, etc. Even to let someone unfeel is sometimes a worthy goal in poetry. The point, if there is any, is that nothing is poetry until a reader makes it into one. I'm not talking of audience, as such, but of a subtle understanding of the work. And I don't think this process will ever end. With a poet, a poem, a reader, an age, a life. Great poetry defeats the reader in every moment, whether it is read, or whether it is kept somewhere to be later recalled or not.


If only God would show Himself, we say this so confidently, forgetting we are the creatures!

Does a man who owns the whole building build and construct just to let people see it is still being built?

I know it is not Faith that I need to see! It is Faith I need to have.

But on a day like this, even Faith eludes me. I see the trees and remember them as trees only, nothing behind their standing or their life. But I know it is my failing, not of the trees or the God who made them.


Someone I know always likes to come in and out. When I am writing, like I am now, he stands up, leaves the room; I can't bear to see him this way not bearing me.

Why is it, we miss someone when they are not here? That is silly, more than us pitying our loss or their uncaring. I'd like to whisper to him, or wait for his assurance—Come to me like you would to something you cannot attract yet rely on; go to one who would miss you yet push you to yourself.

If God were here, He would be the mercy we both lack; He would be the love for all who doubt and have no strength to believe.


You forget I am not as brilliant as you. I am very lazy even for a poet!

Also all my poems are for you, as I keep telling you. Perhaps I am misreading and we are confusing our antecedents.

Mine is always you.

Right now, I think I might be out like a light. The weekend is becoming dark. I will write in the dark for you if it ever comes to that, if I ever miss you more than now.

Ah, so that was you all over me today. My sad invisibility.


We had a good meal yesterday, remember?

I was very still. You were steely, full of cold stare—like I told you to be.

Did you know we never once sat down? A meal of the devotion to setting. A table, an atmosphere, perhaps a failing to be.

But it was, for me, like a resting. But after that a succeeding into our real warmth. That awful description nonetheless succeeding.


You're forever giving me a dictionary. I am repetitive as all who are sad and decorative are.

Life in the prodigal. Happy chance of being read unreasonably. How spared I could be!


I'm a bit under the weather. These idiomatic expressions I never get right.

What if I'm under a name instead of a weather?

That would be epic. I am attracted to a lot of things.

I wouldn't say so of poetry. I think I have to feel the poet is either a virtuoso or is never going to be. Either he's trying so hard and doesn't mind failing, or doesn't need to try or does it so well it doesn't show.

Maybe I'm exaggerating but a combination of these qualities probably would result in amazing work.

Of course, all this is just talk in your absence. Make me be sick of your absence, really sick.


I smile at how quickly they misunderstand. They are so unmetaphorical.

It doesn't harm me, for now. I get another view without a window, though sometimes memory never forgets.

You, however, are not my remembrance but my current memory—We have much and dare to need less.

Metaphor and the slow understanding—the world requires it.

Jill Chan writes poems and fiction. Her work has been published in various New Zealand literary magazines (and anthologies) both in print and online; in websites in the US, UK, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia; and in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive.

She is the author of six collections: The Art of It: Three Novellas (2011), published as an ebook; On Love: a poem sequence (2011); Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011); These Hands Are Not Ours (ESAW,2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (ESAW, 2007); and The Smell of Oranges (ESAW, 2003).

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Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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