Like everyone else, I wake up with hot caffeine. Lately, it’s been loose-leaf oolong tea. The leaves’ pellets unfurl in the water. Usually I reinfuse them a couple of times and toss them in the compost.
Today the sun caught them just so and I noticed lines. Puzzled, I laid them flat on a screen and air-dried them. I was surprised– nay, astonished– at what I saw.
Each leaf has drawings on it.
And you can arrange them into a story.
Because the lines are thinner than the flesh of the leaf, they catch the light. I can’t tell if they’re hand-scrawled or genetically engineered, like those Chinese pears biotweaked into volleyballs. I also don’t know who the artist is. The characters on the side of the package read ? ??– I know the first means “leaf,” but is it the art form? The artist? Is it a marketing gimmick or Labor’s cheeky revenge?
I do know the critic’s job is vicious precision, so I must say I’m disappointed. The drawings suck. No verve, no bounce in the line. And the story’s just a four-panel gag. With all those leaves, ? ?? could have told a multigenerational epic. Love, death & tea on Tung Ting Mountain, spanning from the Occupation through martial law and the Kaohsiung Incident to the uncertain present? Instead it’s just the parable of a pleasant cup.
Drink and you miss it, I guess. But it raises a problem for the diligent reader: that everywhere around, comics wait to be discovered. A bored dentist’s doodles on the panels of your teeth, Fibonacci storytelling on sunflower seeds. No word on whether Sebastião Salgado’s printing his worker-saint photos on each ground of Illy’s coffee, but I’ll keep my eyes open.