“Lian Sheng Lu’s work captures the nature of the written word.” — Shandong Daily News (trans. Chinese to English)
Here is what I remember: the soft curves
of a branch, fitted and formatted into a phrase—
“friend,” 朋友. His weathered hand holding
his chin gingerly, head tilted in rumination.
My grandfather searched the backyard for twigs
all afternoon, pieced them together like a god
crafting his servants, words of a poem we’d forgotten
derived from tree roots. A sprig with a knot on its side,
limbs with markings scorched into membranes.
He made calligraphy wooden—physical, three-
dimensional, harder than meaning itself. Life breathing
through the pores of chipping lumber: a vessel
of wisdom, burning fires in the lines of his palm. He liked
to think he was smart. Documentaries were birthed,
the new art form was found—writing in wood. The thicket
of creativity found rolling on the ground, crunched
underneath a shoe. Aphorisms we didn’t understand
glued to a book, nestled together. We tried
to understand the way his mouth opened
to spit on the ground, the shuffle of his slippers
when the water started boiling. His hair, the color
of ivory, the complaints of the new generation
running down the sink. The same neuroticism he gave
my mother carved into something permanent.
He once said there’s meaning in everything but everything
is not a location, latitude longitude, city comma state.
If a tree becomes a word glued in a book
collecting dust did it ever really say anything,
or does it lay still, soft in the closing light.