The Visitation

By | 8 June 2020

My paternal grandmother came to me
in a dream and said:
I have no money and I’m cold.
I recounted the visitation to my parents—

They had forgotten to burn
for my granny paper money,
paper clothes—offerings
sent to the fire and received

by imaginary ghosts.
Except I hadn’t imagined granny’s
animated agony. It was a song she sang
when dealing Hakka cards:

I have no money and I’m cold.
I have no money and I’m old.
For years I haven’t seen these cards,
their characters now even more foreign.

I remember the strangeness
of the names the cards were called.
White strands in a water basin
when granny slowly washed her hair.

The humble dishes she cooked
in the warm windowless kitchen:
lean pork, steamed egg, rice in soy sauce.
Her lingering odour in summer.

Talking to a friend, Hakka words barked
into the receiver of a black rotary phone
with a long curly cord.
I sat there, understanding it all.

Now, I sing her song
on an odd, hot Hong Kong night.
I’m not allowed to forget:
I have no money and I’m old.

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