I am the end of a rope
thread an ocean
across but what
in time, won’t dissolve?
This house is mine, child of peasants,
the names on the shrine guard the door—
We were close, a bus ride, but we didn’t know the village’s name. A-yeh did.
I sense a
snapping of lines
vines breaking one
from the wall.
Blood is not tongue is not language—
I’m without words
what would have been mine. Tell me:
If you cannot see a door,cannot name a door,is there a door?
I find my name in a sea
of brush strokes, learn his
in time to see itburied,but I hold
a bit of earth this whisper
to myself, again and again as the coin that fell
from a white envelope remains
unspent, that sweet lozenge
that would chase the bitter still there in my purse
when I reach for my wallet
a stick of gum.
Strange the single seed of discovery and loss— a flower cannot bloom a hundred days
nor a man a hundred yearsPetals shed daily reminders,
point the way, crumb-like, to the southern gate— but how to unlock a door you don’t know is there?
Let me go,the sprig of pine has dried
the red thread unlucky
I was American distinct in a Beijing sun
and mistook the slack in the string
for its release.
Can you speak? No.
I was late, could not give the English to save you, the language of doctors, of wellness.
Thin bed, thinner sheets, you lay bloated,
but thumbs up at me.
My father pushed you back— neither of us understood.
He told me in the elevator what you wrote: your painstaking fight with black marker, squiggly sickbed strokes.
I didn’t think to walk back
until I’d flown miles away. Next time, I’d tell you
I’d let you go. Guide your hand
to signor loose the cord myself.
He doesn’t belong to Monday afternoons—
she comes home, he’s waiting by the open door;
so begin the car rides: day there, night back,
the moon more faithful now than ever
to this window. He still sweeps her
from the back, clears the safety belt,
soft syllable so—once
a cough catches, a premonition:
the neighborhood an animal,
his shirt did not use to thread so thin.
She discovers oyster crackers
in the hospital cafeteria, doesn’t wash
her hands, thumbs
salt, when she sees him age in the bed
and learns the need to be gentle—
the surest but not the only way
to teach a child restraint.
The mountain that loved a bird
A picture I may have read and remembered
or constructed from longing to receive
the fossils lie in every story,
seed words that never leave us.
What have you forgotten, some bedtime story?
Cross fifteen threads of ocean,
spill a day hot and humid from the gleaming pill
into merlion song
still I am here, have always been
home lies always east.
The flat of a crayon marks monsoon waves.
Indigo, onyx, and thrown white gravel make
this mountain, paper wedged into peaks, ridges,
crevasses of over-eager glue
spread atop the sponged sunset.
But mango is hardly worth my money—
instead: a bit of heart, black canyon
coffee crunch, pineapple
rice and prawns
tea pulled to the floor like a rambutan
tumble, or the chopstick trickle
of shod girls down stairs
my heart so fast, the bed shakes
I have always loved blue
known only this rock, the path of sun in day
the path of moon in night.
I am too old to wear hearts on my fingers
but the ring circles the silver and aquamarine of a bay
as careful as you held your gall-ridden body—
Close the eye as a shell—
so many threads—one is enough.Enough.
I ask for rock and no water, no water and rock—
what roots reach for cracks, pushing, always pushing,
How many times must the rock
break for the seed
finger the wound left behind, the gap that threatens
collapse under gravity. Break and return,
break and return — her wings
a feathered fan to the sun.
Waiting to heal, she picks at the scab
knowing the scar will be beautiful.
Kristina Tom is an American-Chinese writer currently based out of
Singapore, where she works as a journalist for the Straits Times. You
can find her poetry on the web at www.softblow.com and on her
personal website www.geocities.com/krimato.