Tengluo: Wisteria by Baziju (Roo Borson & Kim Maltman)
Baziju (Roo Borson & Kim Maltman)
I ask for the Chinese name of that flower and you
tell me, then tell me about the sweet that is made for
moon-viewing, wisteria blooms soaked in sugar then
rolled in dough, so that I forget all about the name
and will have to go to the dictionary to look it up.
This is in Spadina Village, a cascade of early purple
blooms down the whitewashed building across the
street, some kind of a bar or bistro. This is how it
goes: inside you there are pictures and in me there
are others. Here is the shrub that is translated as
plum, though we would never call it a plum except
in translation. You ask if there’s a word for unspo-
ken understanding, but as usual in English there’s no
single word, even silent transmission is two, though
it’s often pictured as moonlight, that sudden. In any
case, much of the time it is a subtle misunderstanding
that permeates everything: without misunderstand-
ing there would be no literature, no jokes or puns.
This is the flower called bleeding heart, its name re-
flects its structure, but at the same time refers to the
death of Christ. And here is a miniature Korean flag,
fallen in the street after the festivities for the World
Cup, here the eight basic trigrams that combine to
form all possible circumstances. You plant it upright
in someone’s lawn and it stirs to life. Most of us have
such great feeling, but the work we do is small. Not
much need for talking, but anyway there is talk.
“A piece of paper with writing on it is flat, but when what is written on that paper fills the mind of a reader, it takes off into the wind like a box kite on a windy day,” writes Baziju — the shared voice of poets Roo Borson and Kim Maltman. This exquisite, collaboratively written sequence of prose poems, unfolding through rich, delicate imagery, journeys through streets and gardens, houses and temples, cities and countryside, Canada and China. It is a meditation on the way we travel between places and between times, and how words and ideas travel between languages.
Baziju explores the literature of China, from centuries past to the present, exploring, at the same time, the meaning of hope and of home: childhood homes, the homes we grow into, and the homes in our minds. In Lu Xun’s classic story “My Old Home,” the hero returns from a distant city to the home he left two decades earlier. Hope, he ponders, “is just like the roads of the earth. . . . [T]o begin with the earth has no roads, but where many people pass, there a road is made.”
These sensual, deeply personal prose poems ponder change, loss, friendship, and belonging. In a life in which every detail has significance, the smallest observation grows, and spreads like the branches of wisteria.