For my brother, David Chi-Hsian Wong.


I

He is a cancer man
One foot in the grave and
One foot in Neverland
Defiant to the end.

Looking ahead
Beyond the ocean
With a twinkle
In his eyes.

He has cheated death
Once, twice, or thrice.
He can play hide-and-seek
For one more day

Till death catches him
Making love with life.


II

A monstrous man is he
With a monstrous tumor
Jutting out behind his ear
Like a giant salami.

Condemned to die
In three short months
A slim chance to live
With only half a face.

Walking into the sun
Like a zombie but
Still very sure
He’ll live on his terms.

But who is he?
A brilliant misfit
Living in the
Twilight zone.

Even his failure
More magnificent
Than a victor’s crown
On a hollow head.

Defying the gods
And medicine
He battles death
With iron will.

Master of his own fate
In his dying days.


III

Ten years have passed by
He and his “Babe”
Are getting along just fine
Except for the bleeding

And pain and the constant
Demand for nursing
The cancerous growth
Till it ends with a bang

Felled by a stroke
Lying on the floor
Water dripping from the tap
Marked the passing time

Awake in a hospital bed
On New Year’s Eve
Half of his body
Had no feelings

“I will walk again,”
He promised himself.
A three-legged cripple is better
Than a dead king.

He must go on living
With his cranky Companion
His slurred speech
Cursing his fate.

But his grand illusion
Lights up the sky
His vision as sharp
As his piercing eyes.

Only if people would hear him out
The world could be a better place.


IV

Sleeping through
Many a wintry night
If he does not wake up
His enemies will cheer.

Left to die
But he comes back
More alive than ever—
More true to himself

With penetrating eyes
He stares at the hypocrites
Stands up to the mighty
And demands recompense.

The battle for justice
Will carry him through
The darkest night
To a better life.

Dreams die hard
Even at the edge of night
Dreams of a lucky break
And love so sweet.

The warm embrace
Sets the night aflame
Let’s dance away
Our troubling past.

Drink to that lone star
Wink at the moon
Tender moments
Are yet to be born.

The sun will rise again
Before breathing his last.


V

Oh death
Where is thy terror?
I’ve stared into the
Dark, bottomless abyss

But only found respite
From the terrors of life.
Come, tarry no more
Come, let me sleep

Come, let me sleep
No sweeter welcome
At the end of a long
Painful journey.

But life would not let me go
A thousand threads
Pulling me back
To fight yet another day.

The wall has ears
I hear their voices
I know their colours
They want me dead.

Ostracized
Betrayed
Broken and
Crucified

But nothing can
Break my spirit.
Larger than life
Stronger than death.

Bending like a bamboo
Flowing like water
Growing like crab grass
Floating like a cloud.

Free to love and live
By embracing death.


VI

I have no quarrel
With the world
Life is to be lived
In death’s shadow.

What is the meaning of it all?
I don’t know and I don’t care
But to live is to become
What I’m meant to be

Even when the chorus
Of terror and despair
Tries to bury me alive
Before I escape.

I’ve got to take care of
My twin-business:
Living and dying
With purpose and dignity.

The end is certain
But there is wiggle room
Just enough for me
To carve out my name.

I will not capitulate
Nor kiss the hand
Dripping with blood
Of innocent lambs.

To be alive is sufficient
To justify my existence.


VII

He wills his own resurrection
Alone on Easter Eve
To return to this world
Till mission is complete.

He grasps for air
Each hard-earned breath
So precious and rare
And the air is filled

With the fragrance
Of jasmine flowers
And exotic fruits
From the marketplace.

The naked light-bulb
Hanging from the ceiling
Gently casts its
Sweet soft light.

Life is so beautiful
He could cry.


VIII

Undying Love

His postmortem life
Is on borrowed time
Not to delay the inevitable
But to fill a painful void.

His deadly sickness
Cannot be healed
Till his wandering heart
Finds a place called home.

The little brick house
Seems so far away
And yet so vivid a picture
Of a lost paradise.

The steps were covered
With green moss
The yard overrun
By prickly weeds.

The house has outlived
Terrors of wars
Still alive with cobwebs
Of undying dreams of love.

Oh that pale thin face
With large brown eyes
And a Mona Lisa smile
But he kissed her goodbye

To pursue academic glory—
To decode the secrets of life
And hunt for the gold
Hidden in genetic codes.

When he finally returned
Her home was just a shell
With broken windows
And broken walls.

He has wandered
Around the globe
Across the oceans
And over the mountains

In search of love
And greatness
And a passion
For living with pain.

One day with the beloved
Is better than a hundred lonely years
One tender moment of love fulfilled
Is worth the supreme sacrifice.

What he fears most is not death and dying
But departing without a final goodbye kiss.


IX

Walking tall on the beach
Unbowed by the years
Unafraid of his foes
Unaware of nightfall.

Come, poverty,
Come, sickness,
Come, whatever,
Here I stand.

He breaks into a smile
A determined grin
Laughing at the world
Happy to be free.

Growing apart
From his family and friends
Alone in the cosmos
Waiting for better fortunes.

The cool ocean breeze
Soothing his pains
And revives his dreams
For love and significance.

Luck is never on his side
Cancer is his only mate
No one cares he lives or dies
But he will come back again.

Is he a victim of his own follies?
Is he Don Quixote reborn?


X

God calls him
From a faraway land,
Through a telephone line
From someone who cares.

Death and God are intertwined.
But between Heaven and hell
He chooses here and now
And his cancerous tumor.

Oh yes, Jesus knows
His pains and agony
For He too was betrayed
And crucified alive.

What a comforting thought:
An interesting parallel:
The Man of suffering
And the cancer man.

Against all odds
He has survived
A thousand deaths
Till victory is won.

By a leap of faith
He could still rebound
With renewed energy
To live yet another day

Death, leave me alone!
I’ll come when it’s time.


XI

The end finally comes

Death is kind and patient
waiting and watching
dazed by your dancing
through the stormy night.

Death is gentle and timid
stopped by your faith
and defiant spirit
till the curtain falls

The mighty warrior
has feet of clay.
The mighty has fallen
into a deep sleep.

Death is gracious and patient
to allow a tender moment
of gathering the loved ones
and surrendering to Jesus

Don’t cry for me, you say
The earth cannot claim my body
My grave is beyond the sunset
Above the Peaceful Sea

Don’t lament my death
This world has no room for me
My soul soars to the highest sky
Free from earthly cares

Sing a song for me
Play my harmonica
I’ve finished the ascent
Life is so beautiful from the top