Smiling Flower

She was not the first but she left a very lasting impression on me. I have never forgotten her. Through the years, I have often yearned for her, yearned for her fragrance, yearned for a touch of her silky smoothness. She had always been on my mind. There were others but none could enthral me like she did.

I have often talked about her to Wuan – of how I missed her, of how I would like to see her again, of how I would like to bathe in her heady scent. Wuan understood. She looked and she searched. Her efforts were not in vain.

“I found her,” Wuan coolly told me one morning after coming back from the market. Still, there were tinges of excitement in her voice and I could sense that she shared the thrill I felt.

All my life, I only knew her as Hum Siu Fa (含笑花), Cantonese for smiling flower. It was an odd name because there never was a hint of a smile on her although she never failed to leave a smile on my face during our encounters. I was glad the search had finally ended.

Hum siu fa, her scientific name Michelia Figo, is of the Magnolia family. Among others, the fragrant yellow cempaka and white cempaka are also of the Magnolia genus. The michelia figo is also known as the banana shrub for its sweet fragrance like that of a banana.

Now, there is one hum siu fa tree that stands prominent in Wuan’s garden. She found her all right. And this little tree is blooming. I could almost smell its sweet bouquet when I went through the images that Wuan captured and sent to me.

The poem Magnolia Dreams was written in 2003. It is dedicated to the two most wonderful women in my life – Mum and Wuan. They had gladly indulged my request to cultivate the michelia figo simply because I loved the sight and smell of this tree. Every time thoughts of this flower crossed my mind, I would think of these two women who had brought so much joy into my life and I would invariably smile. Smiling flower – a truly befitting name.

Magnolia figo
Magnolia figo.
Photo by Wuan.


The mere thought of you
Stirs a thousand passions
Beads of fresh morning dew
Garlands you in fashion

Youthful is your foliage
Enfolding weathered bark
Exuberance belying your age
Your enduring wisdom we hark

Your gentle demeanour
Soothes a troubled heart
Cutting a figure of splendour
You are nature’s work of art

Magnolia figo
Magnolia figo.
Photo by Wuan.

Timeless is your beauty
Captured in every bloom
You have known eternity
Yet you never knew gloom

Petals of soft creamy pearl
Gently clasping your modesty
As you blossom and unfurl
You reveal a vision of beauty

Wisps of your fragrance
Infuses all in your path
Delicate sweetness of elegance
Basking them in heavenly bath

Magnolia figo in full bloom
Magnolia figo in full bloom.
Photo by Wuan.

Angels descend from high above
Your ambrosia to taste and nurture
As cupid’s arrows epitomise true love
So you embody the essence of nature

Against the elements you persevere
Unwavering in the midst of adversity
Your fortitude a virtue to revere
You are a vision of hope and nobility

Radiating an aura of perfect bliss
You tranquillise like gurgling mountain streams
Inspiring calm and consummate peace
The wonders of dreaming magnolia dreams.

26 January, 2003.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

5 thoughts on “Smiling Flower”

  1. Hi Peter,

    This is my first conversation with you — thanks for wonderful poem.

    I’m sure the two lovely ladies behind the inspiration would smile on smile and ehave a guardian angel watch over thee.

    I’m also a poet enthusiast, faeured some in my relatively new blog, — I bid hope you and readers of your blog, Welcome.

  2. Ylchong,
    Welcome to the club. I am sure you will find that blogging can be a fulfilling activity. Have fun.

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