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Mai's Little Boy

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I remembered that face through a thousand endless days.
I remembered that face through endless, sleepless nights.
I remembered wrong.
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My small-boy self, seventy-six years past,
Peered, paralyzed, through the cracked door to see
my wise, gentle, beautiful mother's last
breath sucked by the snarling Cup Ju Kung Ci,
the blood drinker that lives eternally.
The animal eyes glowed like the candles
lighting her parlor. The beastly teeth shone,
as sharp as her art's delicate needles.
Her neck pierced mockingly, her body prone,
her spirit had fled, leaving me alone.

I was not abandoned in the darkness.
I did not go hungry, nor wet, nor cold,
but always haunted by the loneliness
I remembered that death's face and kept hold
of an image that could never grow old.

And though I became a doctor, like her,
one who, first, does no harm, still I carried
a western stake and eastern spell secure
across the continent, against the need
to at last avenge that still-bleeding deed.

So, ever watchful, I never found rest.
As much as I learned and loved in my prime,
a heart can miss what it never possessed.
I have been seeking peace for a long time,
my whole life twisted by that savage crime.

And then the snarling painted demon mask
reappeared, lurking now behind the law.
Saving Nancy Leong, we shared a task,
but neither badge nor deeds inspire awe,
and fate leaves me no option to withdraw.

One never forgets his past; I have not.
We can't bury one life in another.
These old eyes see clearly what I have caught.
Vampire, Cup Ju Kung Ci, none other:
You are the thing that killed my mother.

Coward! Liar! You say it was not you.
You, with that face I could never forget!
You were alive then, you admit it's true.
For my mother's death, you owe a debt,
in the peace and rest I could never get.

But I won't be, like you, a murderer.
You say a woman was there, standing by?
For a just revenge, I must know for sure.
You claim she yet lives, and can testify;
if you are lying, both of you will die.

I let the woman come, speak and defend.
Once again in the midst of that horror
my grasp on the past begins to unbend.
Yes, she watched Mamma's death and did not stir,
my mother's life as nothing before her—

I see you sitting, stiff-backed, immobile.
Images jump from my jarred memory:
you, frozen by a familiar needle.
Completely apart from the savagery
your face shows misery. How can this be—

It was not you. Smeared with her blood, that face
is foul, gloating, a white-haired demon
that killed just to kill, a lustful grimace
of debased delight, a crude contortion
that is much too horrible to think on.

And it is not yours. Now I remember.
I thought he could see me! I tried to hide.
When I dared to look again, you held her.
You took his place, tender though yellow-eyed,
but by then, Mamma had already died.

Bringing you though you cannot soothe that ache,
fortune brutally affronts my belief.
As I cry my anguish for the mistake
barely averted, and my endless grief,
I pull my needle; you sigh your relief.

That I kill the thing that killed my mother,
I had thought both my right and destiny.
Instead, I almost committed murder,
all but became what I hate so deeply.
Why but revenge would fate send you to me?

Shaken, I fix on that recovered face,
the third of you, then. Where is this butcher?
The woman frowns and offers to erase
my memory, sparing me no answer.
But you see deeper, and say no to her.

The woman turns her back and stands apart.
You tell me, simply, the monster is dead
at your hands, flaming stake through grave-cold heart.
I cannot thank you. But looking ahead
I see our hopes at last less limited.

 


End