March 2021

Back to Issue 9

Glass Boat, Glass Shore

By Gavin Yuan Gao

Capitulation. Acts of salvage. The maple leaves, on the cusp 

of another flaming season, bow their heads reverently

as the sudden drizzle descends to anoint their cheeks. 


Where I once found a sanctuary in the rock harbor 

that was the crook of his arm—folds of skin redolent 

of mock orange just after rain & the not yet ripened 


grip of desire—now neither of us could bear the nettle-sting 

of the other’s touch. We let reticence bloom 

wide as a year between us. Beneath our glass boat, 


koi weave through water like silver shuttles through 

the fabric of a lucid dream and when we bend 

over the gunwale to examine their translucent scales, 


not once do they flinch from the cold blade of our fixed 

gaze. Simple trust. A kind of faith, whose purity 

often gets confounded with wilful blindness but, perhaps, 


best resembles the near-silence of snow filling the spaces 

it sets out to fill—all the crevices, the open crypts—

as if snow or silence had a mind of its own. And I find it 


ever more difficult—though not yet impossible, not yet—

to distinguish the faith I never had from the faith I did 

that has lost its lustre over the years. Are houses burnt to ashes


still homes? Can a single flake of ash bear the weight of 

nostalgia? I ask of the dusk making a gilded shipwreck 

of the looming mountain as if it’d understand the kind


of belonging that lies at the end of ruins. Above us the sea 

of leaves swirls timidly in gentle castigation. His hands, 

which only last night had ebbed from the rough shore 


of my skin, now frame my trembling waist. A quiet hum 

pools cleanly like moonlight in the varnished chalice

of his voice: a tentative minuet as I blur to bliss. 


Under the maples slowly searing toward a deeper shade 

of crimson, two bodies sway and lift hymnward. 

Leave them be. Leave their belief in forgiveness intact


and the stars over their heads 

clear & quavering as tears.