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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 4, December 2018
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Chen-ou Liu’s "The Distance of Love," A Commentary by Pravat Kumar Padhy

Liu's Tanka Prose is a serene symbol of eternal love of a mother. The spectrum of the tanka is based on love, grief and solitude (ushintei). The poet symbolizes the emotional credence and divine love for his mother by placing the tanka in the beginning. This, in essence, manifests a long bridge of emotional feeling in the reader’s mind for the follow-up prose. The reader is urged to travel the distance into the prose to fathom the emotional exploration.

The tanka is written in 2/3 style with the line-3 acting as pivot line. The first two lines (kami-no-ku) sets the rhythm of emotional conversation with the sensitive word, ‘murmur’. The pivot line (kakekatoba), I love you… is the main characteristic that links the philosophical entity of the poem in the last two lines (shimo-no-ku) of tanka.

The tenderness of the kid querying ‘do you love me’ is portrayed in a blissful manner. The mother in her spontaneity spreads her hand expressing ‘I love you this much’. The phrase in ‘holding her hands half a meter apart’ juxtaposes the great distance of an ocean away in the tanka. Here the prose is landscaped with a poetic resonance. The time is elastically extended from the childhood memory to the present. The numerical approximation of ‘half a meter apart’ indeed assesses distance which is beyond measurement. It speaks about the biographical sketch of the poet migrating away from his motherland and emotional feeling of loneliness. Rightly the phrase ‘an ocean away’ fathoms the solitude in life. The poet tries to illuminate the immortal love of a mother in the fabric of time and space. The immortal love (expressed as ‘L’) has metamorphosed the expression of nostalgic reminiscence of ‘I love you this much’ into the speechless ‘silence at her end’.

I correlate with my own life experience in my childhood days. Unfortunately, I lost my mother at my early age. When I stood second in the Primary Board Examination in my state, I was offered admission by the State Government in the Sainik School (in the line of Military School) which was far away from my town. My mother used to love me so much and she had expressed once of her great wish that I had been born as a girl child. She was not keeping good health. She was not in a position to miss me at any moment. I was in my early teens when she passed away at the age of 38, leaving our family in grief and loneliness. It stretches beyond the rhythm of silence like a fallen leaf! Indeed mother’s love is the nectar of a flower, eternal aroma of the garden of evolution and brightness of the sun.

Later on, in the early seventies, I had composed a long poem in memory of my mother, ‘Waiting for My Mother …..’ in my mother tongue, Odia. The poem speaks the fathom of silence and solitude.

Someone consoled me:
She had gone to her father’s home
And would return tomorrow
with ripen jujube fruits for me
………………….
I waited for long
Opening the door
And the window
…………………..
Returning from school
I wait here, oh! my mother
Please do not forget
The last one is our home …


Chen-ou Liu

The Distance of Love

for my mother

on the phone
I murmur to mother,
I love you . . .
an ocean away
the silence at her end

Coming back home after my first day in grade one, I asked, Mom, do you love me?

I love you this much, she said with a laugh, holding her hands half a meter apart.

Now, forty years later, living in another country, I still can't fathom the depth of that L word inscribed in my mother's heart.

 

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