• Agnes SL Lam



Once Upon a Time


there was a young man

whose father passed away

leaving him three million


                    a cloud floats over

                    a volcano that erupts

                    in the midst of a lake


a girl in a violet dress

believed in setting standards

for herself and her work


                    a deer feeds in the garden

                    of a red house on a hill

                    as flood water recedes


they met each other through

the young man’s elder sister

in her emerald cheongsam


                    a stingray with moon drops

                    on its back is found

                    by children on a beach


four hundred guests drank

to their joy at their wedding

in a hotel ballroom


                    a bird with a turquoise tail

                    rests on a balcony rail

                    fragrant with white peonies


two babies came in three years

and the woman left her job

to take better care of them


                    an alpaca in beige

                    decides to keep its fleece

                    in spite of the summer heat


the man worked very hard

from sunrise to midnight

for almost forty years


                    a bed of coral fossils

                    revives when a family

                    of sea dragons move in


the children became adults

their parents died and left

each of them three million


                    a branch grows towards the sky

                    from a tree two thousand years old

                    fallen on the forest grass


22 September 2010, Rodrigues Court






Watching My Husband Sleep


Almost inevitably, I am awake


in a strange hotel wondering

if the sun will rise

before our window as you sleep …


The first time in Paris on our honeymoon,

I watched fireworks on New Year’s Eve

from our balcony in your dreams …


A few years later, I woke up

in Cambridge to read Jin Yong,

you still sound asleep beside me.


An evening in Sapporo, from far above,

I marked skiers returning, tiny shadows

under stadium lights on snow.


And on the Nile before sunrise,

from our dark cabin, I spied on

chefs in the next boat baking bread.


Another night in a Frankfurt suite,

with a living room like a home,

I suddenly realised I meant nothing


to anyone in that city, except you ...

So many times, when we travel,

just the two of us, I feel I am not


there—as we pause to look at maps,

queue up for tickets for musicals,

rest before paintings in museums …


Every time after a journey, it is you

who will reconstruct our memories,

tell our stories in albums, CDs …


It is also you who introduced me to

Milan Kundera, Haruki Murakami,

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Ismail Kadare …


And when you are home, there is music—

Rachmaninov, Brothers Four, Yanni,

George Winston, Enya, Laura Fygi …


You also showed me Cinema Paradiso …

After seeing Zorba the Greek, I said,

‘Fortunately, you married me.’


This morning, as I watch you sleep—

from your head to your toes, you are

only five feet plus how many inches …


… and it is possible for me to believe

one can bond with dimensions beyond

the space and time of a body …


This morning, we are in London again—

When you wake, we will walk to

Hyde Park to sit before the Serpentine


like so many times before …


23 July 2009, St. George’s Hotel, London
for my husband, Anthony