I hear the distant pulsing of the drums.
And as I near, the sound grows louder. Soon,
I find that I, along with prancing kids
Who strain at mothers’ hands and skid on ice,
Have synchronized my steps. I glide along –
And even climbing ice-hills at the curbs
Is effortless. It seems we gain in strength,
When martials make us dance – or march to war.
The young man strikes the drum with rhythmic force.
The leather, taut, responds to every blow.
In music, there is often scent of sex,
Which we, as children, did not care to know.
But being male, and so of warrior-gene,
The pipes and drums beguiled me as a boy,
When every year, upon a certain day,
I heard the fascists marching up the street...
I pass the drummer and the dancer and
I enter in the Chinese restaurant.
And soon enough, they’re there. The drummer stays
And beats his drum outside, upon the street.
The lion enters, dancing, with his back
And tail supported by his trailing friend.
No room for two to be the lion’s legs –
The place is busy, with the tables filled.
They stay awhile beside me, near the door.
The tail instructs the lion, who’s half-blind,
To walk towards the gods, in an alcove red,
With plastic lights in lieu of votive lamps.
And there, the lion bows to the bearded ones
And towards the goddess of compassion too.
And when the bows are done, he walks the floor
And then returns, to bow to gods again.
I glimpse his face, with glasses, grimacing
From all his effort, walking weighted, bowed.
His mouth is open wide, as if in pain,
And though it’s cold, I know his sweat runs wet.
The Han enjoy their new-year's lion-dance
And dance-of-dragon too. In China, they’ve
A fortnight off – but in Hong Kong, three days…
And here, they work – or take a day sans pay.
And when I ask, I’m told this dance – and all
The bows the lion-boy did, while bending deep,
Towards the gods and goddess – these will bring
The owners fortune, luck, prosperity…
And so it is, that every year, we hear
The drums that rouse the streets – and see
The lion and the dragon bow and dance,
As Montreal or Rome becomes Canton.