Poetry / June 2013 (Issue 21)

Opium Smoker Remembers his Daughters

by Pey Pey Oh

The maids no longer light the lanterns when the moon is full.
Your mouths are voracious, loudly speaking,
always eating.The rice bins are empty.
The rats shiver through the banded shadows, leaving.

Everywhere I inhale, the smoke blossoms.
Dark and rich, my own banquet of memory;
ah, let me remember the painted umbrellas twirling
as we watched the fireworks in fragile boats by the lake.

All ties drift apart, the courtyard emptying of last rays.
Willow leaves litter the barren ground,
you fan yourselves, demanding passage
over the seas, anywhere but here.

I had given you away, my crippled daughters–
chubby lips sulky with discontent.
You keep returning to the house, bringing misfortune;
consuming the gold, determined to carry on.

Wind weaves through the ragged huts,
on the rotten wood jetties by the harbour.
Bands of dogs roam, giving voice–
their jagged airs of yip and whine.

Sisters should stick together, so float away now.
Marry that tin king on his mountain;
the soil may be thin, elevation merely to a hilltop.
You will need to coax saplings from that poor earth.

Pout some more when the ship comes in,
its hold empty and gaping wide.
Fingers stained with tarry residue,
cobbles roll beneath me, sweetly rock and sway.

*In the Confucian Book of Songs, Airs (Feng) are folksongs of the commoners.
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