For Jia Yi
The first time they heard you it was magical.
There was a little whimper you set free,
It had been nestled in your chest,
and as it built to a wail,
the sound of life itself leapt out to dance
on the ears of the delivery theatre.
Your mother was so tired she could not move,
But at your song
Her face cracked open with unimaginable joy.
Your father held you gingerly,
He was afraid to break you newly out of your egg,
His fingers carried your weight delicately as shell.
Your voice it danced until nightfall
when it seemed all the noise was sucked out of you at once
and you lay in your cot soft and silent.
They remember your stream of laughter
Which gurgled and bubbled and skipped over rocks,
And the songs of praise you would sing to the birds,
but now the branches are scratching at your window
because the old mahogany tree
wants you to whisper secrets like you used to,
and the sunshine is reaching for your chest to tickle your soul,
but it can’t and now
the girls in your class don’t know what to say to you
and the teacher wipes away your tears
to send you back into the ring.
Now I am next to you
with my chair pulled up at your desk,
I am coaxing you to give me words
to tell me the wisdom that
you used to sing to the pigeons
but all I receive is a sad smile.
Now you tell me that you like to paint pictures of animals,
free from words, dancing in the wild.
I ask you to imagine the sunrise and to write it down
and the words are so picturesque but you still can’t say them,
your voice keeps running away.
Now I ask you to perform but you are so afraid
that the words come from your mouth onto the floor
instead of where you wanted them to go
so I wipe them up and give them back,
I pray that you keep them for later,
I pray that you always have them
I pray that your voice will return.