A Cold Rhapsody; Or, Song to a Nightingale, 2019

Alvin Chung

I have seen donkeys walk pass the mountains and the falls. I have tasted dried, dark mud and crystallised salt. And now, my shoes are like Van Gogh’s: they are melted in brown, indistinguishable from the earth. Now, the wind pulls up at my ears where my veins are pulsating: like a dying bird’s wings, like the falling of an acid rain.

I tap along with the glow, the glowing heart of the mountains, as I walk. I create a rhythm to exist to, maybe to dream to, in my hunger and thirst. The dusky fields are hued in yellow and orange, against the songs of flickering leaves. Oh yes, how I wish I could love this world, to feel beauty as more than just a myth; oh, how I wish a part of me would become a part of you.

My body is hollow and my veins are muddy. My skin is cold and my eyes can only wound. And I know I must merge with the sea, to become one with the tides. But I have walked against the salt waves many times, but I have always returned.

Would you believe me if I now tear my veins apart from my bones, like a scene from a medieval play? What would you say then, when I hold my heart in my palm, like in Dante’s poem, and throw it down the sea? Often I close my eyes and wish, for the eternal curtain, for the night sky; I long to become Sleep.

If you would only smile for once, I could watch my body sink into the soil, like a nocturne ending. So sing me an out-of-tune lullaby. And forgive my eyes for they never learned about beauty. And forgive me for I have never understood you.

The clouds are like a Rorschach test. Grey and red glows waltz into abstractions, swirling into transfigurations of human shapes. I can feel the dripping sweat, the throbbing blood, of this sky. I can taste the saltiness and the bitterness and the stink. For this milky sky is a life-giving image, a portrait of impossible redemption. Oh, how I wish beauty was more than just a religion.

And so I cross the river in my Van Gogh shoes. Sometimes, I feel I am a character in a painting: a dirty one, made with cheap paint, soon forgotten too. But make no mistake: I have touched my skin and know where desires sleep. Yes, they sleep under the untouchable: desire is the kiss of an autumn wind, disguised as a breeze. And I feel it just now when I look out to the dusky fields. Because nature, as they say, is a vulnerable thing.

Each morning, florescence touches my face with a rare tenderness. I have dreamed of tenderness many times: like in dreams of the Romantic poets, reciting rhymes dedicated to nameless nightingales. Yes, I have dreamed of all that in this wilderness, among the gutters between graves, under the creaking branches, in this naked, invisible storm.

But what brings me here, you ask? Why do I speak? I believe you will understand someday, when you too, start to speak of love, but realise words are just words; when you try to put a face on beauty, but only find masks.

Don’t worry, the dawn is here and you feel the sun’s touch like fingers on your face. It is enough for now. The wind will blow on, it will spin the weathervane and bring life to the soil. And beneath this earth also lies the veins of life ­– a mess of blind desires. Sometimes, I think the universe is just a mixture of blood and bane.

You keep silent, but I know we will be together when the sky darkens again. I will first collect water from the muddy river. And then we will talk more. We might even sigh under the moon or sing a song from the ancient songbook. Tomorrow, I will walk on in my Van Gogh shoes. I will travel to the mythical tree and try meditation. But for now, I can only see a nightingale, resting on the soil: your wings do not beat.

Alvin is a media and communications/laws student majoring in economics at the University of Sydney.