by Jeremy Hsiao

Seventeen Bamboo Pipes

Steady hands caress a wooden frame,
and he plays, with every breath
exhaling, inhaling in a sheng 笙 reverberating in
gourd wind chambers, the breast of a robin,
seventeen reed pipes of history
etched in bone oracle writings.

The old man at a blood red railing with cracks
like porcelain and dry land that surrounds the
Temple of Heaven or 天壇 and
Echo Wall, a skipping record.

He returns each day
eating rice with crooked hands
gray hair, split and aging,
taking a sip of water before he continues.

The air in his lungs, clear passageways
to his mother’s house
which smells of osmanthus fragrans flowers
mystical incense in two teaspoons of
apricot juice mixed with olive oil
a vapor emitted out of bamboo.

Hunched over a small stool, baggy clothes hang
like notes in a crowd of tourists.
Valleys litter his body, sucked in cheekbones
yearning to be flooded.
Oak burnt skin, circles around his eyes
like bark patterns
swaying with the wind
back and forth in waves
to rock the hull of a sheng in melody
taming his hunger like sheep.

With his songs, sifting sand into
a story of home
in intakes of air, a haunting melody
His sheng, a kaleidoscope into his past
sunset through a prism, reflects into ink on sheet music
notes blotted in each mark on his skin.

He stares into the distance
shifting his fingers and hands
singing to balmy bushes
they rustle in response.
The song of Wuzikaimen
oscillates twisted silk,
against serrated ridges in bamboo whisk.

Jeremy Hsiao is a sophomore in the Creative Writing conservatory at the California School of the Arts. His work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Apprentice Writer and the Young Poets Network. He is also a journalist for multiple online outlets.