By | 16 August 2019

I don’t remember the way you did it –
the cleaver pressed sharp against the meat,
a memory: fingernails sunk into flesh.
Dinnertime is a theatre of trauma,
a curtain revealing smells: garlic, ginger, fish sauce,
the lascivious tongue of oil touching a pan
as the radio spits out a language
I keep tucked in my school skirt
& I don’t remember the way you did it,
I only remember how each spoonful
tasted like a bruise.

You pick apart the blue on my collarbone
& do not speak. I am only just realising
that shame has a shape—a blurry-edged,
clingy foetus you cradle, so tenderly,
your thumbs pressed against my womb
as if to say that violence is in our genes
& still, you do not speak—
(I read somewhere that
Chinese women make their anger
into something they can drink.)
A soup stirred for three weeks
drenches the house in its dull,
star-anise smell for decades,
a cheap spice, $2 a bag & you,
my dear, dumb, silent mother
coax my mouth open,
tell me a story
feed me a tonic
to burn my insides

Mama, when I write poems
I am always typing words in hiding
with the crack of that radio still nestled
in between my collarbones
& thinking about how pretty English is,
how this half-cocked verse tastes like
a recipe missing an ingredient
you cannot get from around here,
but Mama—
I think I get it now. I think I get it.
That yellow is not a synonym for blonde
& my father shuts the door
to cry without anyone seeing
& if you were still here
I would ask you
how you made that soup for me
your fingers strong
against the barrel of my chest,
spoon after spoon
as your tears dripped down
into my forgetting mouth

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