by Carlina Duan
sit proper. raise a glass. call some body baobao, then wipe their soft
baby-cheek. drink milk tea at dusk. or never at all. tapioca bubbles
slick black & glistening, like fish eggs stuck between cubes of ice.
he recounts the time a Chinese student bowed, with his hands to
his heart: like this, like this :
so crack the heart, figgy, over a bowl. whole seeds in a mouth
to unswallow, spit back up. surface for air. brush the cake with
egg yolks, or bash the cake in with a fist. no oranges twined
with green leaves. here, no gentle touch. an egg turns solid
under heat. a person—liquid, private. full of hungry eyes.
once, in Xi’an: a backpack filled with donuts, sugar flecked gold.
rinds of melons, glazed ducks, flies plump and humming near
a silver fishing line. once, in Qingdao: the women’s sharp caws
of ai-ya! as the low tide came in, pouring saltwater across their
plastic sandals. this is an opportune moment, he said. a photo, a photo--
do not take his photo. let the hot water in the pan cool, cease
to ripple. then take out the trash. a search engine pulls up
a body, quivering and mean. send it gliding across a plain.
the truth is sweaty—say it, still: yeye was a basketball-player.
nainai grew radishes, and sliced them into spicy discs. on the fifth floor
of a brick building— inherit what you can. stick the tongue,
a selfish muscle, out to meet the world. there, can you taste
it? salt, a heated coin, an eyelash falling, falling…
do Chinese people celebrate
eat — have?
Carlina Duan is the author of the poetry collection I WORE MY BLACKEST HAIR (Little A, 2017). Her poems can be found in Black Warrior Review, Narrative Magazine, The Margins, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University, where she worked as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Nashville Review, and was a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. Carlina is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the Joint Program of English & Education at the University of Michigan. She loves witnessing things grow.