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.