Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

TEA POEM WRITTEN ON U.S. ELECTION DAY

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SINONG’S SINGING BOWL
11/4/08

In China, every emperor looked for
the tone that defined his reign. Sinong
went into the woods to listen for the song
of a certain bird, the sound of one leaf
falling, as it happened, into hot water
when the first cup of tea made itself.

Today we reached the mountain top,
so that all of us freed from the slavery
of others can see the other side; so the
trees that line our boulevards can sigh
with relief and let go of their guilty secrets
when leaves fall into puddles of water.

What comes next, we wonder? These
withered hands are not large enough
to provide shelter from rain, or strong
enough to lift the vulnerable out of the
rain into the branches. They burn too
quickly to warm the hands of those who
live outside the holy covenant. Unlike
the night blooming jasmine of China,
these leaves have no healing properties.

What is the tone for our time, when children
turn up their music to cover the sounds of
war, famine and acid rain? Is it the sound of
coins dropping one at a time into begging
bowls, when those bowls should all be filled
with rice? Is it the sound of a homeless person
gathering leaves to make a bed for the night?

In our experience, Emperors parade naked
in the streets, their velvets and furs rendered
invisible. Every time, the tabloids report
on the inefficacy of tea, but we still go out
to listen for the second line singing, “We
Shall Overcome,” all of us still willing to
follow the one who will go even deeper into
the woods to wait for last leaf from the tree
of knowledge of good and evil to drop.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page