Three Stones

Nick Eustance

December 2017 - January 2018

The poem that forms the basis of this installation was inspired by a visit to a traditional house in Hanoi, Vietnam.



Three Stones


It is time for the report to be made

The three stones are poised

for the spirits of the hearth are preparing to depart


We have offered the finest honey

to sweeten their words

Our gifts of paper animals dance in the fire for them


You are a god

the Jade Emperor

Put yourself in his shoes


Perhaps this year

we have not behaved as we ought

An unusually generous offering may be needed


We hope the spirits are complicit

yet surely you see through this shallow ploy

Do you smile, we are only human


Or frown

and see a slide from offering to bribe

The coming year's fortunes now in balance


We placed the symbol of the path to righteousness

high on a bamboo pole

to keep the house safe while the spirits are away


Does it teeter when the report is delivered?


               *  *  *


Flickering scraps of memory

float above the fierce bright coals

of another hearth

We have chosen the thinnest paper

the smallest writing

to lighten our request

Our lists of hoped-for presents

a brief and brilliant orange


taken by the draught


We give nothing

only wait to receive


But, perhaps, there is still a reckoning

Our words must not fall back into the fire.