it whispers

Ōtomo no Yakamochi (Vol. 19, poem 4291) in Man’yōshū.


Currently I’m dipping my toes and fingernails in the realm of the impossible. The one where boundaries live. Maybe the true ghost realm (for me?). The one that’s easily forgotten, but once known, turns towards you with a painful weird sort of vengeance. Slippery, only vaguely visible, seemingly unreal, often cited as unnatural. Ghost-like; hard to catch, to see, to understand and when they do show themselves they bring a pain and truth hard to swallow. And as ghosts do, they make you look to the past and into yourself.

Difficult, too, because it often comes with the realisation you are not as emotionally impenetrable and tough as you might have believed and wished you were. Tip tap, clicking and clacking, tok tok tok tok clank clank clank and booming. The sound of people, places, things, situations, little sometimes petty things crossing, without regard. Because how could there be understanding when you never knew these were boundaries (not meant to be crossed)? Or when they were crossed so often it no longer seemed like a strict line. Or when you were brought up believing your lack of clean delineators is what made you good, open, special. And, you whisper, are you sure these are boundaries, why can’t they be crossed because, if you look at it rationally and you take in the context of all these years then perhaps stepping on me was justified? Don’t you think?

Breathe. Pause. Distance. Observe. Look.

Kai Cheng Thom, A Place Called no Homeland


Do I let myself collapse ever inward, or can I chose to expand and draw a criss-crossing of lines and tell you: beware not to cross them. In a sense, don’t I let my old self, or rather my self that lives in other’s eyes collapse? And if so, what will my expansion come to mean to those around me? I am scared to ask if anger is in the mix. What will you do when you are not allowed to stomp so casually anymore? Or not allowed to stomp at all?

Maybe I’ll hum, sometimes I’ll whisper but can I show my ghostly boundaries, say them aloud? I’m terrified.

Remembrance of Earth’s Past


Liu Cixin has made me question every sci-story every invented for its lack of vision. Cixin’s The Three Body Problem was so grand in scope, so truly “hard sci-fi” yet at the same time managed to capture humanity, individualism, doubt uncertainty, unfailing hope. All while narrating the start and end of our entire universe (as we know it).

When I first started the first novel of its trilogy I remember nearly wanting to quit on every new page I turned. I thought, it’s too heavy, it’s too dense, there’s too many characters to keep track of, I don’t understand the history of 1960s communist China well enough! And so on. Luckily, sometimes, I can be quite stubborn so I kept reading. And somewhere around a 30% progress I couldn’t stop reading the strange mix of whodunnit metaphysical existential mystery novel it had become. Complete with a mysterious game mixing history and improbable planetary revolutions. I thought of Gibson’s Neuromancer and general Kafka but there’s no point in comparison.

Then I met the woman who pressed a button and became a revolutionary and inspired an inevitable followers dissipating into various factions. The game. The daughter. The mysterious suicides. Who can stop reading after that?

But what impacted me most and I mean truly changed my outlook on life, fiction, the universe, was the last book of the trilogy: Death’s End. How can I even mention anything that captures the scope of the book? There is Sophone; particle, electron, photon and I know her as 子, in an alphabet I cannot even comprehend. The infatuated student who buys a star and lets his brain float in space. The female scientist from another era sleeping and waking throughout time till the end. The Wallfacer, and how I wish I could really understand him. Aliens we never get to see or meet but who permeate every aspect of earth’s life as soon as that one button’s pushed. An universe beyond our comprehension. How can it work? But also: why not? I don’t have a scientifically inclined mind but I did not need to and there is always imagination to fill any gaps.


Now I turn on Netflix, catch some sci-fi show (and though I am aware of the inherent racism, lack of budget or maybe lack of dare. I realise it want to say something about Humanity or Society but all it often does is fall into the same old black and white tropes of evil versus good, it throws in some unbearable romantic plot with no feeling whatsoever, I suppose to keep those ladies watching, and mostly is nothing more but propaganda for that One (pseudo-)democratic government or rouge group to save all those oppressed peoples who know of nothing better, who have no culture of their own, who have no thought of their own. I read yet another sci-fi novel, finish the last page. Close that Netflix tab and I cannot stop thinking: who will every make me wonder, imagine, astound, feel and realize the beautiful and ugly complexity of life as much as Cixin did?

I said to myself, you can’t shatter open

“I said to myself, you can’t shatter open.” A sentence in Esme Weijung Wang’s The Border of Paradise. I told myself this often enough, I cannot shatter; even the smallest cracks weren’t allowed. And then. Not cracks. No shattering. Disintegration. Myself, my world and the chilling after-waves, still rippling across everyone and thing I was near. Some after-waves choking and drowning some, sometimes happily or sacrificially so. Time, opportunities, trust: long since washed away.

It’s a sudden break, a pause or even a total standstill of your live checking yourself into a psychiatric hospital. It’s alienating, expensive, the food lacks spice, boredom and loneliness are more tangible than ever. And hospital is so expensive you’re scared just to go out for a bit just in case you might spend those euros glittering on the bottom of your purse. And almost inevitably your purse doesn’t even sing one cent jingles but grumpily crunches supermarket bills.

I keep wondering where are you? But then again, where was I these past few years? Nowhere near you, nowhere near myself.

Good wishes and best of health to you xXx say a bunch of cats lined with glitter with Hallmark indent. A bar of chocolate on my birthday. Perhaps next time? Or the week after the week after the day and month after that? Plastic electric blue upholstery. Overcooked vegetables. Still, a paradise. Llamas, goats too bloated for words, a tiny forest, a field of grass. A tree with initials carved circa 1946; stroke it and your hand feels the healing effect of time. Insight, practice, advice from peers and professionals alike.

Suffocating, liberating, painful, essential, lonely, constructive. And progressing. Then suddenly, sometimes:

I, for the first time, felt the natural poetry of the night breeze brushing my face.

The Wandering Earth, Liu Cixin