After A Heavy Snow

                                                     By Parker Po-Fei Huang

                                                        A bank of whiteness


                                                           Is all I see. Have I

                                                       tossed away the world

                                                         or the world me? Or

                                                           is it just a single

                                                      moment that I stand on

                                                          a sheer precipice

                                                        with clouds passing

                                                               through me?

                                                      Some mists sweep the

                                                       sky. Some stars elicit

                                                         serenity. I feel that

                                                         I am gathering the

                                                      reflections of a flower

                                                     in the water and that of

                                                     the moon in the mirror—

                                                       no scent, no motion,

                                                        yet I sense eternity.

                                                       I stop breathing lest

                                                       I wake myself. From

                                                      where, of what world,

                                                       have I come here? I

                                                      turn my head and see

                                                     there are only footprints

                                                             that follow me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yvonne Lau Memories

I first had heard of Uncle Po-Fei through my friendship with Alan.  I remember he would joke and say that if he missed his father, he could go to the Cornell language lab and listen to his tapes!  During my undergraduate years at Cornell, I decided to apply coincidentally for the NDFL fellowship for intensive summer language study in Mandarin at Yale.  I didn't know that I would be privileged to be in Huang Laoshi's class.  Although our class kept a grueling schedule, I always looked forward to Huang Laoshi's section because whatever he covered that day, I knew it would be fun.
I didn't realize then how lucky I was to have such an inspiring teacher. Ironically, now that I am involved with promoting Chinese as a second language programs, collaborating on K-16 pipeline curricula and professional development, I understand that being in Uncle Po-Fei's classroom was a magical experience.  When he recited his poetry - especially in Cantonese - I felt transformed and somewhat hopeful that even at my low proficiency, I could make sense of his readings.
He had a wonderful laugh that infused our classroom with warmth and affection.  We wanted to work hard even during those hot summer days in New Haven where it would have been tempting to relax and take more breaks because we were inspired to match his enthusiasm and prove worthy of his confidence in our abilities. Though the program was not a strict immersion experience, my Chinese improved so much that summer because of his exemplary skills as a teacher.
Later on, after a series of events and suspecting that my mother and Auntie Huang were actually roommates back in China, I brought my parents to visit them and witnessed their reunion.  It provided another special bond to Auntie and Uncle Huang as well as an additional window to experience their family warmth and love.
Although since they retired out in Orange County, I have not seen them too often, I now feel lucky that I did see and hear Uncle Po-Fei in the last few years.  Was it only a couple of summers ago that we were visiting friends in San Diego and heard that Uncle Po-Fei was going to be celebrating the publication of another book of poetry at a special reading.  Fortunately, I was able to arrange with Alan to visit them at their home in Pasadena and accompany them to the event at a community center.  What a joy to see Auntie and Uncle Huang still in relatively good health, greeting me warmly as if it had only been a short time.
When we arrived at the center in El Monte for what I thought would be an intimate gathering of some old friends, it turned into a much larger event with perhaps a crowd of around 75 eager to hear this very special reading.  Again, though my comprehension of literary Chinese was very limited, I enjoyed hearing Uncle Po-Fei and observing his affect on the crowd.  All seemed enthralled by his recitation.  I was in awe of his energy and spirit, and of his passion for the carefully-crafted words and language.
I felt very sad when I heard of his passing today, but I know that Alan, Auntie and Ben will be comforted by how Uncle Po-fei touched the lives of many people around him - students, colleagues, family and friends.  He taught me more than Chinese language and text.  He shared his love for life and communication, generously and happily. Though years and miles separated us, I thought of him at special moments when I thought of certain phrases in Chinese and the special teachers in my life. I miss him now and think how lucky I was to have a mentor like him even for a short period of my life.  Thinking of you, Alan, Ben, and Auntie Huang...

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