|IT may be that the gulfs will wash us down: |
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
- Lord Alfred Tennyson
(from Mr. Green:)
When my grandfather told me about the birds plucking out the eyes of the dead and about the possibility of our own ancestors, our own family, suffering just like that if we ignore them, I said, "Don't worry, Grandfather, I will always say prayers for you and make offerings for you, even if I'm Catholic."
I though this would please my grandfather, but he just shook his head sharply, like he was mad at me, and he said, "Not possible."
"I can," I said.
Then he looked at me and I guess he realised that he'd spoken harshly. He tilted his head slightly and smiled a little smile - just like his father in the picture - but what he said wasn't something to smile about. "You are a girl," he said. "So it's not possible for you to do it alone. Only a son can oversee the worship of his ancestors."
I was surprised and delighted that first day when my grandfather motioned to the birdseller and began to point at sparrows and the merchant reached into the cage and caught one bird after another, and he put them all into a cardboard box. My grandfather bought twelve birds and they did not fly as they sat in the box. "Why aren't they flying?" I asked.
"Their wings are clipped," my grandfather said.
That was all right with me. They clearly weren't in any pain and they could still hop and they would never fly away from me. I wouldn't even need a cage for my vain little friends.
We had always kept chickens and ducks and geese. Some of them were pecking arond near us even as I crouched there with my mother. I knew that we ate those animals, but for some reason Ham Nghi seemed like a different place altogether and the sparrows could only be for song and friendship. But finally my mother finished cutting the vegetables and she reached into the box and drew out a sparrow, its feet dangling from the bottom of her fist and its head poking out of the top. I looked at its face and I knew it was a girl and my mother said, "This is the way it's done," and she fisted her other hand around the sparrow's head and she twisted.
the bright-eyed Athena reassured him,
"some of the words you'll find within yourself,
the rest some power will inspire you to say.
You least of all - I know -
were born and reared without the gods' good will."
So the gods would banter
among themselves but lord Apollo goaded Hermes on:
"Tell me, Quicksilver, giver of all good things -
even with those unwieldy shackles wrapped around you,
how would you like ot bed the golden Aphrodite?
"Oh Apollo, if only!" the giant-killer cried.
"Archer, bind me down with triple those endless chains!
Let all you gods look on, and all you goddesses too -
how I'd love to bed that golden Aphrodite!"
the bright-eyed goddess sped away to Olympus, where,
they say, the gods' eternal mansion stands unmoved,
never rocked by galewinds, never drenched by rains,
nor do the drifting snows assail it, no, the clear air
stretches away withotu a cloud, and a great radiance
plays across that world where the blithe gods
live all their days in bliss. [...]