The Chinese Music Box, Poem

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The Chinese Music Box


zhong guo yin yue he

(The love of a life needs a life full of love

With neither one present, they both fade away)

Wayne Wilks

This is a little story I have wanted to write for some time now about a music box I purchased in Oklahoma City, manufactured in China, which I then shipped back to Shenzhen as a present for my new daughter, Wen. The box then made its way back to Oklahoma with her mother, my wife. It struck me as some sort of miracle, this traveling music box and how it was love that saw it safely across 8000 miles of ocean, 3 times, following one little girl across the globe. It now sits on little Wen’s desk, in our home in Oklahoma.

God bless: Tim Wilkinson

(Once upon a time, not so very long ago, in a far away place in a country named China, there lived a kind man, a maker of beautiful music boxes.)

Four daughters he had and a beautiful wife

All living together and sharing their life

In the mornings together, they worked and they smiled

In evenings they played, they cleaned and they schooled

At night when the light, sank down out of sight

They cooked and ate peaches with tofu and rice.

In a glen by a brook in the shade of a hill

Father built them a house and he built it quite well

In the tiny wood cabin, with a shed by the way

He built them a home with wood and with clay

And somewhere about, in China no doubt

By the brook in the shade, it stands to this day,

They six of them lived in this field all of green

With grasses and flowers and beauty unseen

Butterflies and bees danced about in the breeze

Squirrels and fat chipmunks chattered high in the leaves

Robins and Wrens, Blackbirds and Hens

Red Cardinals too would wait to begin

They gathered to sing and all would join in

To whistle a tune with the trees and the wind

Apples and pears most loved by the bears

Hung fatly and sweet and grew everywhere

Within their green field sat their small wooden house

Complete with a bunny and one kindly mouse.

The chimney on top with the smoke curling out

Smelled yummy and hot like Mothers steamed trout

With the scent of fresh breads, of puddings and stouts

The air tickled noses and turned people’s heads

It filled the night air with the smell of roast bear

Boiled mutton, baked beef, cherries, pumpkins and Pear

In the coldwater Locke by the woods in the glen

They fished and they sunned and they swam, all of them

And when there was ice, they skated and sliced

Then fell on their rumps with a grin

When the wind it blew haggard and harsh

When it rushed so rough to the south

When it chilled the small house and the one kindly mouse

When all noses were red, inside and out

Then they snuggled quite tight, beside firelight

While father told stories that he knew

No care did they have for together they thrived

Never alone or affright

If love could make candy and kisses make fruits

Turn joy into chocolates and smiles into treats

Then never a family, was more like soft candy

And never were Six more sugary sweet

You see, he learned how to sing from the Mockingbird King

And the Storks, well they taught him of dancing

So he taught his four girls

And his wife with dark curls

To dance and to sing and to live as if spring

Would never depart from the world

He learned how to carve and build boxes

While schooling with red winter foxes

Learning his trade and how to be paid

Selling red wooded, Chinese music boxes

He carved with tree thorns and sharp little horns

Always his wife there beside him

Carved with small figures, of bunnies and guineas

With doves and with flowers and penguins

He made each one sing, with bells that could ring

With a dancer that sang through the evening

With care and great skill did he use

All that he’d learned and he knew

And all that he built, with a heart free from guilt

Was shiny and lovely and true

Only one at a time, did he glue and fit tight

Not starting another till the first was just right

Placing within each new box

All he’d learned from the fox

In the glen by hill, near the woods and the field

Beside the coldwater Locke

Created with smiles, with laughter and sighs

Then painted with bird feather brushes

With flowers for girls and tigers for boys

He painted them one then another

Yes, he made boxes that sang, to cure little girl’s pains

So music and song would surround them

All the magic he knew from the world when still new

He used on his red music boxes

All the dances he’d seen

The songs that he gleaned

He used to create each beautiful thing

His daughters, his wife and his boxes

When one each was done and he’d named every one

He sold them to those who would love them

He harvested the wood that he used to build boxes

From towering Cedars that grew with the oxen.

He cut what he pleased for they grew like the weeds

In a year all he needed was twenty

The trees grew as high, as high as the skies

As high as an eagle whenever he flies

With a small wooden cart, he would carry the wood

To his home in the field, to his shed in the woods

The trees grew so thick, so tall and so long

As brown as the dark eyes of his little girl Wong

He formed the small pieces of the finished wood tops

From the stalks that he gathered to replenish his stocks

He cut them himself from within the dark woods

Tall, thin bamboo, where nothing else grew

He cut and he wacked at the great tall bamboo

Working all the hot day, until he was through

The stalks grew so thickly, so tightly they did

Where Panda, Tiger and Elephant hid

Then he bound it and dried it, then whittled it down

To make tiny drawers and the things that go round

When young it grew green and could sing in the wind

Like whistles from leaves, it sang from within

Bamboo remembers and knows it’s young tune

It will sing in a box when dried and loved true

It never forgets the sound of its song

As pure as the smile of his little girl Yong

He sawed and he cut, he dried and he planed

He smoothed and he formed, then he glued and he stained

He sanded and painted, he polished and smoothed

He lacquered and finished, then smoothed once again

He made tiny pieces of bamboo and carved wood

Then sealed them with glues, as best as he could

Glues made from eggs whites and Robin’s eggshells

That he picked up himself, just right where they fell

He gathered them one and he gathered them all

Yet only those that were broken and those that did fall

The shells were of azure and indigo too

A tiny bit round and a little bit new

As deep as tall iris, they were and remained

Like the swift giggling brooks, for which they were named

They each were bright blue, like the clear sky at noon

As dark as the sea, as bright as his mood

As blue as the soft words he sang to his wife

For all that she gave him, his children and life

As blue as the sad years he’d spent without song

As blue as the heart of his little girl Fong

He gathered the stones from the rivers all round

Stones full of copper and zinc that he found

He crushed them and mixed them, then smelted them down

For the Brass to make gears and the teeth that made sounds

For a box without sound is sad little thing

As sad a lover, alone in the spring

For it’s gears that give life to a box that can sing

And it’s love that turns sound into songs in the spring

You see the heart of a music box is only as big as its gears

As strong as its joy, as sad as its tears

The gears that he molded were strong and quite sound

Shiny and sparkly, the best to be found

They gleamed like the sunshine and shone the dawn

Like the eyes of his last born, his little girl Hong

He then carved it a lovely, petite, tiny dancer

Of Whalebone or Walrus or maybe Deer antler

No one could say, for only he knew

By the end of the day when the carving was through

But carve her he did and then set her on top

To twirl and then spin, to dance until stopped

When all was just perfect and all was arranged

There sat a new box for his daughters to play

Smooth as new silk, red as the dawn, bright as the eyes

Of his little girls Wong, Yong, Fong and of course little Hong

On top spun the dancer, of pink and chiffon

She danced in a circle while the box sang it’s song

He wound it then set on table or pot

When dinner was through but the dishes were not

Then they’d all gather round and they’d watch and then smile

As the box played a tune to while away hours

For there in the stones, the metals and trees

There is life in the magic for the love of all these

A man and his wife with their four little girls

Cause it’s love that brings life, to boxes and worlds

But it’s one music box that I’m here now to say

Came to life in that season, that very same day

A gift for sweet Hong, with her own tune to play

A song about life, true love and the way

The way that a father can so love his girl

To build wooden boxes to brighten her world

There was magic and power in that green Chinese field

With love and with romance, really quite real

The woods held the Magic, in the bamboo and trees

With power in waters, rivers and streams

It came to be then, within little Hongs hands

That the music box sang, with the force of a band

The love that they shared, little Hong and her box

That her father had made, once taught by the fox

Sing, boy did it ever, whenever it could

Of a fathers great love, in their home in the woods

She loved and took it wherever she went

She always rewound it when it’s song was all spent

The love that she gave it, so innocent and true

Was all that was needed, for wishes to bloom

Well that love grew so strong, so true and so real

That before they all knew it, well that box…it could feel

It’s little brass wheels, they then turned into flesh

It’s heart filled with joy and it’s gears drew a breath

The six of them then, formed a family each day

A family of six, no seven they say

And each lovely night, when the sun went away

When foxes did prance and the rabbits did play

When robins and blue jays and owls up on high

Looked down from above, with glee and with sighs

The family of seven, with song in their hearts

Did sing and then dance, to the songs of the larks

They smiled and they laughed, they giggled and pranced

While Mother and Father passed winks of romance

For years they remained, so happy and free

While Hong and her sisters grew tall as the trees

Yet spring turns to autumn and rain turns to snow

It wasn’t that long, before all was to go

Too soon came the time that it all turned to gray

Their life in the grass, the fields all a sway

But the love of a father for child and sweet lass

Lives on forever, in wood and in brass

Like the love of a girl, for her red music box

Loves great as these, well they never stop

Before they knew why, their songs faded out

Things change so fast, of this there’s no doubt

It was summer that year, when the rains went away

Then Father’s great fear came true as the day

The city was growing, no longer a town

Black smoke filled the skies and smog burnt their eyes 

Great sadness was near, no longer bound

They watched and they cried as the trees were cut down

The woods disappeared, all turned into houses

People and trains scared off the small mouse’s 

The bamboo was sheared, the grasses all died

The animals left, the birds flew away 

The brooks they all dried as the Governor lied

Selling the waters for pennies a day

The rocks they were mined, crushed and refined

To build fences and roads, to bar people’s way 

The field filled with grass, soon covered in ash

Turned brown as the dust, cause the rain couldn’t last

Soon factories and stores and people in hordes

Buried the green hills with concrete and floors 

Wong met a boy that she married quite fast

Leaving Father and Mother, minus one lass 

Yong left for school, no longer a girl

But a woman with dreams and a life in the world

Fong went to work, in a town, by a church

In a country and city by a woods, full of birch 

This left father and mother, Hong and her box

To live by themselves, they and one fox

Now it wasn’t too long, before there came along

Sickness and illness and many sad songs 

Soon Father took ill and Mother a chill

Little Hong couldn’t fix and couldn’t make well 

Before thaw turned to spring and the sun warmed the ground

Both mother and father and Hong were all gone

The box it was sold, to pay fathers debts

For doctors and nurses and all of the meds 

Mother was with him, just holding his hand

When he faded off, to new better lands

Mother soon followed, like flowers and seeds

Dropping her petals, replaced by the weeds 

For she couldn’t stay, without Father beside her

Without her dear husband to love and to guide her 

Together they left, leaving Hong all alone

In a country named China, in a home not her own

On that very day, as little Hong sobbed

The gears of her box…well they just sort of stopped 

Without little Hong and her bright summer smiles

Her heart just stopped beating, her gears had grown tired

The sad music box, now alone by the Locke

Grew lonely and rusty and wouldn’t unlock 

Her heart had grown old, due to rust and her tears

For a future of nothing but lone empty years 

Soon she was taken to a small little shop

And sold with the rest of fathers old stock

Then packed in a crate and shipped over seas

To help pay the cost of Hongs food and small cot 

The trip it was long for rough was the ocean

On a ship with a sail, just as old and forgotten

When she arrived to new shores in a land far away

She sat alone on a shelf, until this very day 

When came a young man in the shop to do trade

To seek a small gift, for his bride down the way 

He looked and he thought and looked once again

Yet nothing he found could make his wife grin

Till he found in the back, in the dark, at the top

A duty old shelf with a rusty old box 

She had sat on that shelf, refusing to sing

For so very long, through winters and springs

With never a peep, nor a word or a phrase

Not a lyric or song or tune did she raise 

Yet when the man touched her, something happened you see

She felt once again the need to be free 

There was something that day, in his touch or his way

That tickled her gears, made her heart pound away

Something of magic was here once again

She felt it and knew it, yet couldn’t begin 

She had been far too long, without family or Hong

Now her gears were too rusty, too dusty for song

So try as she might, to move and to sing

All she could manage was one tiny…Ting 

So the man placed her back, back on top of her shelf

Then turned back around, to find something else 

Yet before he moved far, this small music box

Gathered her strength, forced open her lock

Her top it slid open, her key it did turn

Her gears cranked around, her heart it did burn 

In just that one moment, she came back to life

And sang, take me, and love me, a gift for your wife

She sang and she sang as if all of her life

Was all about this, this moment, this strife 

The young man then turned and smiled a wide grin

For now he knew what, his wife he would give 

So he bought the small box and wrapped her all in

Pretty red paper, with bows at each end

And when she was opened, unwrapped for her song

Whom did she see, but her little girl Hong? 

For the young man you see, had searched high and low

For a love that loved him, and with him would go

To make him a family and be his new wife

So in China he searched for the love of his life 

And the one that he choose, who choose him alike

Was little ole Hong, now grown to full height 

So all of them three, forever they stayed

In a house by a brook, with a field all a sway

Where the trees grew so thick, so tall and so long

As brown as the eyes of their little girls Yong, and of course little Hong 

If love could make candy and kisses make fruits

Turn joy into chocolates and smiles into treats

Then never a family, was more like soft candy

And never were five more sugary sweet 

(For Little Wen)

The End

© 2010, Tim Wilkinson & Wayne Wilks


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