Old Buddy Chang


Tanka-prose is a marriage of prose and tanka that

combines two modes of writing: prose and verse.



Old buddy Chang is my college classmate. 


same dorm, same bathroom

same school cafeteria

way back in Taiwan

and then, the same graduate

school in the United States 


bargain-basement house 

fifteen dollar bicycle

ten dollar T. V.

twenty five bucks for a fridge

life was good, spirits were high


clouds behind the sun

same concerns about future

same uncertainty

his and mine, stars blink and fade

doubts, hunger and dreams, we shared


My old buddy is full of ideas. He has an answer for

everything. American football was a foreign sport.

He figured out the rules of the game, and learned the standings of professional teams. And he knew how to select

a cheap used car; a convertible with the roof stuck-open.


white convertible

wearing a Hawaiian shirt

you are in heaven

a picture, a thousand words

calm father at home, he said


car without a roof

don't worry, it never rains

in this desert town

"if it starts raining, I will 

hold the umbrella," he said


one hundred dollars

we never went anywhere

no power, no speed

only for local driving

car can't be on the freeway


I never thought old buddy Chang would make it so big.

He won so many awards, was promoted to a top position.

I had to fly to see him with my own eyes.


patents on the wall

state-of-the-art research lab

plush oval office

the keynote speaker at our

alma mater commencement


It all happened after he passed 50 years of age.

how did it all get started ? No signs in college.

No indications in graduate school. We were both

starving students, full of imagination. Clueless, one

day, I read Einstein's quote "The true sign of

intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."


all of a sudden

a light bulb lit in the dark

he's smiling at me

yes, it was a desert town

why worry about the rain.

I Miss Your Voice


I missed your ninetieth birthday party,
I missed your funeral one year later.
It was almost sixty years ago,
we bade farewell to each other.

Sixty years, a lifetime, a gulf apart, 
I still remember your voice and handsome 
profile, while writing clear and organized 
lessons and instructions with
elegant handwriting on the board. 

Day after day, tirelessly, 
You pressed us to catch up, to excel,
to make sure, we learned enough before
we grew up to face the challenges ahead.

I did not know the challenges you knew.
All I wanted was to get out of the school.
I wanted to grow, grow out of grade school.
The distant junior high would give me 
an excuse to get my own bike. 
Riding my bike through miles and miles 
of winding streets, 
navigating through the bustling traffic 
was the only challenge ahead I knew.

Another year, another class of graduates.
Was it a relief to see us enter 
a new milestone in life?
Or was it a worry to see 
unprepared minds and souls about to
risk the next unknown duress?

Through all these years, I’ve begun to learn 
what you had known: the ugly reality, 
the peril, the trap, the pitfall, 
the dishonesty and pretension.
The truth that means nothing,
the fact that can be distorted.


I miss the days that I needed 
only to finish the homework 
you gave me. And that constituted
a good day, a complete day.

The decency you taught me
may have left a mark in my life. 
The least I shall tell you is,
I miss your voice,
the homework you gave me,
and I wish, 
life can be that simple again.

a pianist and a piano


(Inspired by a book written by composer, C.J. Shih.)



it is a fine day

Chopin, Bach, then Beethoven

dessert is Schumann 

run through in one breath, a taste 

even the water is sweet


back from a long trip 

hello to my piano            

88 keys, black and white

never questions where I went

never suspecting a thing


same touch, same feeling

a tap, she softly replies

engaging the force

she echoes with passion and

tempo to seize the moment


murmuring sorrow

or burst out in elation

she is always there

tender, considerate and

silent when I need my peace


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