i have covered the mirrors
hung red banners on the door
salted the corners
burned the sage
painted the ceilings blue
sprayed holy water while
murmuring the catechisms
you taught me on bent knee
and open hard palms
all while drinking the ash water1
from the seedy priest at
the guan yin ma temple2
you would take me to
after sunday school
mother i have thrown away
all my childhood dolls
stuffed scissors and red thread
in every bag i own
stopped my ears each time i heard
my name called at night3
checked the pin on the banana tree4
left the bloodied pads out
whenever the unseen baby wailed5
hung a crucifix on the door
carry a yellow paper amulet
in my pocket still stained
from the priest’s bleeding tongue6
burned the joss sticks and paper
left your favourite food
in front of your altar
so mother when will you
stop knocking each night?
1 A Taoist practice is to burn a paper talisman, mix the ashes with water, and drink it in order to
imbibe the power of the talisman.
2 Guan Yin Ma is the Buddhist goddess of mercy
3 Pontianaks, a Malay vampiric female ghost, are thought to be afraid of scissors and sharp objects.
Red threads are given at Chinese funerals in order to prevent ghosts from following a person home.
4 Pontianaks are thought to live in banana trees. A way to control them is to hammer a pin onto the tree.
5 Toyols are the ghosts of aborted or miscarried babies who eat blood to survive.
6 Another Taoist practice.
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