Uncle Thu is not really my uncle by blood. As with most Asian cultures, he is my “uncle” because of close ties to the family. He was a high school teacher in Vietnam before the Communist takeover. He was the person who was responsible for teaching me English, my first “formal” language, among many other things. He loved music and he loved poetry. When I was eight years old, he presented me with a book called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I think it took me a whole year to read through that book.
I found the following poem on the back of an album many many years ago. It touched me in a deep and profound way even though I was quite young at the time. The circle of life and all that. I had written it down in an old scrap book. Many years later Juniper had woven the text into a beautiful hand-made book from her Dragonfly Press. I searched for it on the internet for a long time, before stumbling on Bill Fries (given name). He was better known as CW McCall, the songwriter for a great many songs back in the 70s. The most famous one was “Convoy” from the “Smokey and the Bandit” movie (1997).
Uncle Thu is 77 years old. He is undergoing chemotherapy for prostate cancer.
I am a Raindrop…and I fell, crystallized, one gray
winter morning in the yesterday of your life…it was cold…so
very cold…but the year was new and you had plans…and dreams
of warm places…you drew their pictures in the frost…and I
froze them into your memory…it was January…such a long time ago.
And I glistened at the tip of an icicle as you climbed
the hill with your sled…and when you raced down the long
icy path, I stung your nose with tiny needles of snow…and dripped
from your overshoes when you stood in the door that evening…
it was February, and you were cold, and tired…and hungry…
And you looked through me one afternoon
as I ran slowly down your windowpane. The winds
were high, and your newspaper kite was ready…
but the sun was gone and I was there…making you
wait ’til tomorrow…it was March, and you were impatient.
And I followed the two of you into the woods one
gray-green day…but when I touched her face, you ran
to hide from me…I watched from a leaf as you
kissed her…gently…and she kissed you back…it was April…
and you were in love…for the first time.
…And I mixed with your tears as you said goodbye to
your father…and when the prayer had been said…and his
song had been sung…I tried to tell you that crying is
good…for how can one know happiness until one has felt
sorrow…it was May…and the flowers were coming up again…
And I was dew, sparkling in the grass as the sun
came up one summer morning…and you had a day to
remember…it was June and everything was right with
your world…and the child you’d just brought into it…
…And I stayed away in a cloud one night and
let you lay on your back and look up at the stars…it was
July, the air was clear and you realized, at last, what a
joyous thing it is…to be alive.
I am only a Raindrop…but I created the snow on
the mountain you climbed…I made the rainbow you saw…
I started the rivers you crossed and I filled the oceans
you sailed…it was August and you and I were somewhere…
doing our thing.
And I ran as a brook in a meadow as
you walked beside me one sunny, golden day…I listened
as you told your son about the mysteries of nature,
and the realities of life…it was September…and the stream
of time had begun to flow a little faster…
And as I danced with the leaves through
their last mad whirl…you gathered together…family and
friends…to honor your son…and his bride…it was a
time for festival…and a farewell toast to the brilliance of Autumn,
It was October, and winter would soon be here.
And when my sisters clung to the thin bare branches
of the trees outside your window…you sat by the fire and looked at
the fading pictures…and the tiny scraps of life that had been
saved for such a day…it was November…and the days were getting shorter…
I am a Raindrop…and I fell slowly one night…
changing to snow…covering the earth with a soft white blanket…
and as you watched the lights twinkling in the evergreen
boughs, I heard your heart say you were happy…because you
knew that if one light should fail, the others
would still burn bright…
it was December…and you were getting sleepy…