Poetry / September 2014 (Issue 25)

On Bittersweet Guiyuan

by Karen An-hwei Lee

Shifu in tai-chi class—

the more bitter the medicine,
the more potent.

As a girl, I ate guiyuan*
as dessert

not as medicine
—flesh out of the rind,

one-eyed seeds
in oceanside

            fishing town

guiyuan tree of eyes

burning a sea
of body heat—

Do not consume

too much guiyuan,
fire qi.

What is so bitter
about guiyuan?

Fire sang
bitter to sweet.
Author's note: Guiyuan is the ancient camphor tree whose fruit is used in Chinese medicine.
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