Poetry / March 2014 (Issue 23)

Two Poems

by Eileen Chong

Cleansing Ritual

My grandmother pinches the yellow charm
and lights it into ashes. The red writing shrivels
then curls onto the bottom of a mug. In a pot
on the stove, dried chrysanthemums unfurl

their secrets, truths hushed by rock sugar
then boiled into limp silence. Black and white ashes
float in tea. I drink it in one go, tasting shadows:
leached flowers, cane sap. I dip my hands

and feet in a bucket filled with blooms. She daubs
the holy water across my face before
she weaves strings of sandalwood smoke around me,
head to toe. This is exorcism, purification, love.

I realise I don’t have the recipe, so I make it up as I go.
I write words on this page, and throw out the withered orchids.

Washing the Silk

‘…The evening is driven by beating on stones.’
—‘Meditations on Autumn (I)’, Du Fu

My sisters, this bolt of silk in your hands
I have washed all morning in the river,
beating it with sticks. Hold it like a banner
between your bodies. I glide a pan of glowing coals

from end to end. The silk grows taut; its sheen
mirrors the moon. My husband on his journey
must be weary of his robes. This silk is ready.
Each thud a step. Every inch a mile.
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