i knew my poh-poh
through my mother first—
a wordless woman
made cruel and callous by war,
by orphanage; undigested tones
chewed and spit out as lotus paste.
goldenrod teeth, appleseed eyes.
she put her memory down
in a burning bed
and never brought it back.
when i met her for the first and last time
she was the size of a yuan:
small yet patinated,
curled into the bent shape of my thumb.
my mother had her illness—the shape
of gunpowder silence. caught
in the crossfire as either the cynosure or
the catalyst, there was no use taking cover;
to be flammable.
“don’t talk to her,” my mother had warned me
during our 13 hour flight. “she doesn’t remember
our faces. it’s not worth the trouble.”
but i didn’t think trouble could look so lonely.
when i was too scared to sleep
i found her on the balcony tilted skywards
at the bruised stars.
trouble said nothing.
trouble brewed me piss-warm tea in the
qinghua porcelain she drank from everyday.
trouble lingered by my side until dawn
shadowed her planetary hands.
all mothers were their mothers
but maybe i was wrong for the first and last time.
trouble might’ve tried
to love me back.
Mary Zhu is a Chinese-Canadian poet based in Vancouver, British Columbia. A few of her works have been published in W49 Magazine and The Literary Canteen.