Christine Cheng | Art by Advait Patil
When I was a child
I reached for the stars.
The same lights that were swallowed up by the pitch-black oblivion above.
As we delved further and further in
the dimly lit sky intensified into nothing
speckled only by the stars and moon.
I was led by the lanterns held by thousands of others
the same ones who followed this river with a story long forgotten.
The river was lit by the faintest of waxy candles
the lights indicated the ones who had strayed away:
The lanterns twinkled in their hands;
their candles inside slowly washed out in the dark.
One by one they faded onto the banks,
and others called a warning: don’t be like them.
I held up my lantern to guide me on through the dark,
and looked up to see that the moon shone with fear
the same one which drew us the stars—
a place I would learn I could never reach,
for it knew what I would learn:
the truth of light itself.
I ventured off
as if I was treading on feathers off into the night of deafening silence
but my lantern would whisper orange into the shadows
and a hand would pull me back into the slew
or a ray would catch my eye
and I would wander back myself
to a river of an unknown end.
The lights above to beckon the lost
and yet I thought I was set on the right path.
Fallen ones were sent on the boats
left to drift away.
The rest waded through the river,
one foot in front of another.
The same people who didn’t understand the sky.
They whispered about the ghosts above;
the souls lost on the journey
or the ones whose candles had burned down
or the ones whose clothes had dragged them away
or the ones whose fire had dwindled into ribbons of smoke.
Of how their boats drifted down their river, never to seen again.
As I grew older I glanced at the sky: the bearer of fleeting dreams.
the same one that I gazed at as a child.
I learned this after the years passed and no end ever came.
I realized the dark cavern still swallowed us up within its shadows
but behind the spirits tainted the sky with the faintest of blues.
So alone I went to find another place
different from the flow of the river that is endless, is infinity.
I pinched out my flame and discarded the shell
the same one gifted to me from an unknown face
just to follow the sun.