Poetry / April 2018 (Issue 39)


Su Li-Zhen Descends to Earth in Her Flowered Qipao

by Artemis Lin

Tell me the dream where my mother
tongued her petaled baby teeth and sang
an ancient swallow.

                                                                             The cicadas,
                                    free from slumber, carpetbomb the air—
                                        so they end in lust, so they end in the
                                       wrong hands, one raised palm. Tell me

about bifurcating the many
into the one.
Summertime rubbing so thick
with bodies, schoolchildren too.

                                                                      Tell me the dream
                                               where Chow Mo-Wan is my father.
                                                               That complicated story.
                        He spoke the ghost tales and prepped my suppers.

Here: xi-fan for your ills.
Here: unspool your brain through a typewriter:
if you don’t know how: learn.
A memory is never just a memory.

                                       This is the best any father will do for me,
                                                            and I swear I won't forget.

Tell me the dream where we don't go to prison
                          and your brother still rides a bicycle to the market
and you don't carry your mother on your back.

We look for mends in the qipao.
I love you because we are the same.
                                                 The house, you leave behind, but
                                               The old tongue you keep for mettle.
I am with you when you lose your love—
                              and then again, and then again, and then again.
I court you from the shadows and
                                                             braid your hair in the dark.

Here, you dug for the root
                                                                                    of the root
A gentle hand untouched by wilt
                                                    And here, administered my cures.

You look so much like my own mother
                                                       that I think of you as her ghost.

She tells me about the summers
choked so full of cicadas
that she raised her honeyed stick
high into the air and caught one,
whole.
 
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