Mucus purrs in my throat. I ask
you again the water to rice
ratio, how to angle the lid.
Why don't you find a recipe
you say a caving roof. Steam
flowers the vent hood,
rasping door knocker no one
answers. I wish for dried scallops
and blossomed shiitakes.
as cellophane, your frayed
thumbnail. Not speaking
is the flower some say while
others speaking is silver.
You tell me in Hong Kong
there's not enough countryside
for the dead, buried ten years
then cremated. You say Chinese
characters are houses
where a man enters
certain the floor will hold
him. Your stockpot freckles
with stains dark as keyholes.
Chicken bones foam with wood
ear and goji berries. I realize
I might not eat for hours. Once
I wore your mother's necklace,
a gold stamened flower.
Photograph of My Grandmother, Sunbathing
The way my father talks you must've wanted
to play piano too: I imagine
your sugared ankles at the pedals, gold
shutter of the bench like my grandfather's
camera. After he snaps, you go on
smiling at the ocean, breaking water,
beachcombers. Fossils rippling like keys
where your toes sink. Because music
is a kind of drowning, you don't hear
the pearl oyster crack open or your grown
son's mumbling piano. I only see
how young you are, how the light loves
you. My father won't say the rest:
gold flower in your mouth. Torn mouth
of a sugar sack. Lampshades. Your
darkened room. What can't disappear in water?
The Year I Was Born, My Grandfather Died
Memory revises me.
—Li-Young Lee, from "Furious Versions"
Each time you tell the story I am
younger and younger. Soon
the back door will unlatch
its flapping moths. Dandelions
melting in the valley, our
acre yard without a split-level
house. I will be small enough
for my father to lift me from
the car, sleeping. I won't know
your father if we go back even
this far, after you gave up
incense, its lit and rotting wand.
Child Inside a Heart
Because I am your American daughter
you tell me not to speak.
I'm not to give us away
or the seal carver will
hike his prices: cinnabar paste,
chops like ornate
dollhouses. I don't touch any, not
the stonehearted tiger
or dragon marbled as sewer
water. One will bear
my name, rock back and forth
like a weeping child.
like a weeping child.