Sometime after I graduated college, my Popo was trying to throw out a large, pink sheet. Upon it depicted a traditional Chinese dragon and phoenix. The dragon had bright orange scales and red spikes trailing along its curving body. The phoenix’s head and torso were a dark forest green, but its wings and tail feathers were brilliantly colored so that no feather looked the same. Both beings were enshrouded by wisps of many-colored clouds that made it appear as if they were actually approaching one another: the phoenix ascending from below, the dragon descending from above. The colors of these mystical creatures was emphasized by the soft pink satin that this scene it had been embroidered into.
My aunt, enamored by the image, wanted to keep it, for she said that it could be used for some craft and would be a waste to toss out such a fine piece. My Popo didn’t mind the proposition, but thought it appropriate to let her know that the image depicted a dragon in love with a phoenix, right before both creatures were about to make love to one another.
To my aunt, it didn’t sound believable, and she dismissed this tale, telling it to me when I saw her a week later.
At first, I too could not believe that copulation was the message. Myths and legends aside, these were two different creatures: how could they procreate, much less make love to each other? I’m not trying to be crude, but it’s impossible for me to imagine. Yet, the more I ponder this sheet’s story, (the sheet is now the cover for a large body pillow in my room), the more I understand why it never needed to make sense in the literal sense. No longer do I see bird or reptile, but lovers captivated with passion for the other. After all, is it not beautiful that these two rarities, both uniquely different, find equal standing in their shared love for their kingdom, the sky? Or perhaps I have put words into this image’s mouth —like my aunt and Popo— when I should let it speak for itself? Is it my job as the writer to give it a story and meaning, or simply to write how it is beautiful meaning nothing at all?