Tuesday 10 January 2023

Three Poems by Lilija Valis




Each Christmas, the house

on the hill lights up a star

erected years ago, high

above the slanting roof.


Two interlaced triangles of gold

encircled by two red halos

join other lights streaming down

to the neighbourhood below.


Gold, red, green and blue

flare out like the mantle

of some descending Madonna

blessing our unseen lives.


We who walk the night 

pass homes that release light

and shelter trouble.


We stop by the lot where

a house stood Christmas Eve

          but not Christmas day.

It burned down in the night,

while the man upstairs

swore at his predicament –

            neighbours heard him –

every entrance stacked

with boxes and furniture

windows boarded up

smoke accumulating.


When the firemen came

they couldn’t get in.


Now there’s just rubble

and the smell of a burned life.

Rumours of a drug business.


We nod a prayer for the soul

on its journey and leave

the ashes of its earthly life.


Even when we can’t see it

we feel comforted

by the neighbourhood star.

We know if we continue

our walk, it will meet us.


We pass by other houses

garlanded with lights,

their windows, path leading

to the front door signaling



It seems to us who like

to walk away our troubles

that the stars and the moon

have come down from behind

the clouds shrouding the sky

to mingle with us in the winter





On the last day of Chinese New Year

eight women met for dinner

in an out-of-the-way Chinese restaurant

next door to a Walk-In-Clinic

but we were not worried –

our organizer had done her research –

the best Szechuan food was awaiting us.


None of us eight was Chinese

each wore something red or gold

all past the age of lying

everyone armed with humour –

we were a lucky number.


Two rules: No politics and no

woeful listing of aches and pains –

the woeful listing was the difficult one

some theatrical demonstrations occurred

then we ordered wine.


The lively blond with the blue eyes

insisted, ‘No wine for me!’

but as we raised our glasses, a look

of deprivation spread across her face.

‘I want what she’s having,’ she cried

pointing to the one with the widest smile

and a raised glass of red, red wine.


We drank a toast to friendship

and the New Year. The Rooster

was promising – whatever it was

we had no idea but knew

it would require bravery.


Multiple dishes rotated;

spring rolls, spicy Szechuan green beans

lemon chicken and hot pork

sautéed scallops, prawns and squid

Singapore-style vermicelli

shrimp fried rice –

chili peppers burned out old tastes.


‘Ahh… everything exquisitively done!’

said the one who eats out frequently.

‘Top reviews for these dishes,’ said

the retired teacher, our researcher –

her family used to own a restaurant.

‘No MSG,’ she assured us.


We passed around stories

and heart-shaped chocolates

wrapped in red, two each.

Finally, the organizer handed out

eight single freesias in pale gold.

Love and good wishes circulated

with easy laughter – our annoying

habits stayed out of sight.

Everything worked out mysteriously.


We hugged at parting

like old friends, promising

to meet again next year

but on the first, not the last

day of Chinese New Year.


Yes, we welcomed the Year

of the Rooster with a circle

of 8 – it was going to be

a Lucky Year, no matter what.





10 is a sacred number

I learned that from a dog.


Sen is half coonhound, half

yellow lab. ‘Breeder’s dog,’

said Chihiro, ‘had an affair

with my neighbour’s dog.

That’s why she’s not pure lab.’


Sen has been with the musician

all her life. Chihiro calls herself

                 ‘Sen’s foot servant.’


Since turning deaf, Sen

no longer trusts absence.

After 10 days without Chihiro

she stops eating, ignores

the kindness of the people

looking after her. Chihiro

cuts short her visit

to Japan or the U. S.

and flies back to Vancouver.


Why 10 days? Each time.

Is Sen part of a universal rhythm

humans also move to?


10 being the number

of heaven and the world –

considered the holiest number –

the one 6th century BC Pythagorians

took their oath by, combining

mathematics with mysticism.


10 is a sacred number.


As soon as Chihiro walks in

Sen’s interest in living returns.

She follows her human around

until the old rhythm

                   settles back in.


10 is the first number

that needs a companion part.

10 is the beginning of a new cycle.


10 is a sacred number.


10 fingers for humans

to create new worlds.

It took Odysseus 10 years

                       to return home

from the 10 year War of Troy.


10 days to an elderly dog

living in silence – like

10 years to a human.

Sen is participating

in an ancient rite

and Fate is cooperating.


Sen is Japanese for ‘ thousand’.


10 is a sacred number –

Sen taught me that.

Lilija Valis has lived on three continents, in some major cities, including Washington, DC, and San Francisco when there was music in the streets and strangers hugged each other, published in book, literary and e-zine magazines, as well as nine international anthologies, and performed in public libraries, parks, old theatres, pubs, among other places.

Asked to step side by COVID until it finishes its performance.



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