關心 what is the most important direction?

by 伊凌 yi ling

performed 12.6.2017 at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art’s 1st Queer Writers Resistance reading. Wore the red bandana for #Texas Karankawa land gave the ground for so many of these reflections and a top knot and fresh undercut thanks to my 學長 nbjz.  It has been a year of really, really deeply growing and nurturing queer Taiwanese Asian existence in communities.  How astonishing, that after 6 years, I would meet the people I wrote this book for.  Getting to read the ending of the book for them has been the deepest grief, praise, beauty.


Greetings, it is so wonderful to see friends here from so many directions.  As we share our writing, which to me has always felt sacred like prayer, I give thanks to the Lenni Lenape people, whose land we are on.  I give thanks for this container for our moment together.

In Chinese Mandarin, bisexual is said to be 雙性戀,dual directions of desire.  I encourage us all to contemplate the directions we travel.


What is the most important orientation?


When I was in 6th grade, my father was a Shel Silverstein drawing, his back to me as he squatted on an island, a lake of inky darkness yawned between us. I stood on the other shore reaching, yelling, and crying for him. He never moved. He died the way a tree died, withering slowly, quietly, still.


As I got older, I turned away from the ocean of sorrow separating us and I began climbing the mountain of success.

But I couldn’t shake the question, what’s the point of success if my family isn’t ok? What’s the purpose of ascension if my father is drowning behind me? What’s killing my family and my friends?


What is the most important orientation?


My mother warned me, “you are a mirror with a hairline fracture. Stop before you crack.”

I sobbed for days. I stared at the mirror. Was this it?

Was this it? A life spent gripping a shaking mountain, each move separating me from my family, a life spent ignoring what was breaking? Was it shameful to splinter?




So I smashed my mirror self to pieces. Then I pushed against the mountain and leapt.

As I hurtled downward, it was women, indigenous, Black, Palestinian, Muslim, Brown, Asian, queer, migrant, immigrant and undocumented women, teachers, aunties, sisters who reached out, healed me and held me. They reminded me how we turn nightmare into vision, to shed the coats that we climbed mountains with, to be unafraid of risk and responsibility because our truths never break, to pray to ancestors in silence and song, to listen to rhythms beyond this realm.


Like Mazu, like 地藏王菩薩, like women who brave hell and oceans for our beloveds.  To follow xin, the oldest current.



i dove into the ocean, depression dissolved me


there was





becoming memory

becoming ocean

becoming ocean floor


This is how I found my father drowning, coughing and choking on despair. The White Terror, the Cold War shredding him inside, his respiration reduced to shaky half breaths and coffee like vomit.


What is the most important orientation?


With permission from grandparents, i surrendered to ocean, our returning.


Long deh loh ki,

Long deh loh ki,

Long deh loh ki,

deh loh ki,

deh loh ki,

deh loh ki




all in.  all surrendered.  in prayer, in water the barriers to his dying dissolved. This is how I determined he would die, following dharma, remembering death. Ocean absorbing the remaining barriers, selfishness and all pollutants to his passage…holding heaviness, fury, all burden of land and poison, 10,000 slaps, severance and curses. Waves, memory, ancestor, wisdom. Devastation became flow. Grieving became remembering.

I could not breathe a single breath for him. What good is success when your family can’t even breathe? Simply, I was there as the remainders of his shredded xin left, chanting with 10,000 Bodhisattvas. Remembering what my grandmothers taught me with their living and dying.

Thus, 爸departed, 南無阿彌陀佛,the last sound accompanying his xin.

Since then, I’ve been heat and water and sand and bubbles floating, surfacing slowly. Un-drowning—Breathing has not felt quite the same. The sky seems so much brighter, and blurrily the sun pierced the water surface.



What is the most important orientation?



A monk said two serpents followed me, ancient and unshakeable. I dreamed a white dragon roaring at me, snapping jaws and plunging into the ocean south of Taiwan. White clad figures streamed over our island and raced into the sky, a speeding column bursting into clouds. Becoming vapor dancers. Then falling as rain.


I returned to 元光寺,where Master PuXian asked me to translate how the foremost joy in life was 平安.  not “peace” he said.

So I sat still, riveted in the morning chants and smell of sandalwood.  Three Buddha’s shone as I closed my eyes.


“Peace?” “Equanimity?” All not quite right.


Another day, I sat after chanting one morning in the Lunar New Year. The water ran down the ceilings according to the grooves of the caves. Suddenly a lake surface shone in my xin.  It was a bay, like 清水灣半島Clear Water Bay Peninsula in Sai Kung.


The depths—great architectures.


The hills—rising in various formations.


The water—stretching out from a great lake to ocean.


The shining surface—mirroring the silver clouds.


vast.  still.  deep.  tranquil.  secure.


Shards of the mirror and ice dissolved into each other.

The water surface reflected equilibrium, 平。The space made a safe harbor, 安 。


Sun seared the watery depths.


Tranquil security.





My family home in the south of Taiwan is next to the ocean of 林邊.  鄭家 bears the mantle 安記。remembering tranquility.


This is what I learned as water.


What is the most important orientation?