Celestial Flowers


by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

On the edge of a town we briefly knew,
we joined a discreet crowd
to watch a widow plant her husband
in the clouds.
Moonless, seeds of sparks blossomed,
then receded, black as before.
It lasted only ten seconds, or less.
But his ashes had been up there,
a whole sky of falling petals
and melting floral patterns,
for everyone’s raised eyes to see.

I remembered the profound mixture
Of grief and celebration in the air.
Perhaps more joy than sadness.
After all, a stranger’s death
is someone else’s business.
When I kissed her head she didn’t notice.
She was engrossed in the fireworks,
peonies, chrysanthemums, dahlias.
We still stood by the kiosk
Long after most people had disappeared
into places they called homes.

The following day –
Steadily buses drove by,
carrying ads in a foreign language.
We held hands, walked on a path
cleansed by some morning drizzle.
The airport was in sight the whole time
and there was every need to curb our guilt.
It was too good to see celestial flowers
when ending our affair.

About the Author:

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is a Hong Kong-born writer currently based in the UK. She is a co-founder of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of Victorian Network and the poetry editor of Fleeting Magazine. She edited Hong Kong U Writing: An Anthology in 2006 and co-edited Love
and Lust in 2008. Her own work has been widely published in print and online and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and the Forward Prize. She is finishing her PhD thesis on Neo-Victorian fiction at King’s College London.