NEVER OLD TO ME
The Best Poems and Poets of 2004 by International Library of Poetry
Like a quiet and small brook
Rugged hills the way you took
A stone of round with mosses of green
On your path I have been laid
"Behold the ripples
And what wrinkles!"
"Don't say that
Seeing the twinkles!
They are new colors in my life
I've just gotten from my love"
I WISH I COULD BUY YESTERDAY
November 1997, Troy, Alabama, U.S.A.
Being so amused by the picture-books inside the showcases and along on the shelves, I felt my heart beating fast. It was the first time for me to go alone so far away from home. My parents seldom took me to bookstores, being afraid that I would ask them to buy me books. Besides, my grandma didn’t even like me to read. She always locked me in her dim room when she went shopping and every time she came back finding me reading my uncle’s school books, she would curse me severely. She could always tell what I had been doing no matter how I pretended and would find out the books wherever I hid them. My mother gave my grandma little money for taking care of me, and I just couldn’t get a penny from grandma for even a popsicle in the hot summer, let alone any money for books. On Sundays, my mother would take me home from my grandma’s. It was just then that I could secretly pick a penny or two from my mother’s pockets or purse. I began collecting money by doing this. However, each time I felt guilty of stealing and was afraid to be caught.
Losing myself in the colorful world of the book covers, I must have been hanging along the showcases for a long time. The colorful world of wonders was so close to me and the smell of the print was so fragrant, but it seemed to me that it was too far away to be within my reach. They were all what I had been dreaming of, but I didn’t know what I could do with the pennies gripped in my tiny hand.
“Can I help you, little friend?”
Being shocked, I looked up into a smile of an auntie. I began sweating, clenching my teeth, and trying to control myself from shivering. I didn’t move.
“How much do you have with you, little friend?” asked the shop assistant, still with a smile.
Raising my hand slowly over the counter, I opened my fist to let the coins drop down.
“One, two, three … twelve,” she counted the coins on which she might feel my sweat.
“Have you made your choice, little friend?”
I shook my head.
“All right, little friend. How old are you?”
“Ssiiiixx,” she said this while picking up a book from behind the counter and handed it to me. “How do you like this book?”
The Story of a Woodpecker, color pictures, too easy for me. However, I didn’t say anything but just nodded. She was so nice that I was afraid I might hurt her feelings if I told her the truth.
“Nine pennies. You’ve three pennies change, little friend. Here you are.”
I took the change and the book, hurriedly headed downstairs without looking back, I was so nervous that I even forgot to say good-bye to her. By the time I was in the street, I stopped to take a deep breath and found myself wet through and through from nervous perspiration. But I felt very excited and happy. The sunrays were so lovely and the world beautiful. I couldn’t wait to get home to read the book I bought all by myself. Then, I hesitated. Taking a bus would cost four pennies, and moreover, I was almost exhausted at that moment. However, I didn’t give it a second thought and started my long journey home.
Years have passed and my grandma’s shouting is still ringing in my ears. Since then, I have never had a chance to have any money of my own, and even worse, I will never have the chance to find that sort book in any bookstore in China. Nowadays, whenever I pass a bookstore anywhere in the world or lay my eyes on a picturebook or even smell the fragrance of the print, the scene in front of the showcases comes to my mind. I wish I could have had the power to travel back to the past just for the books I loved so well which I will never lay my hands on. I would spend all I have to buy all the picturebooks there and read them the rest of my life.