On the Nature of Threads and Jackknives
In our house, threads unravel. My mother refuses to brace
herself, stitch back our sagging hems, the loose buttons.
Truth is she's dangerous with a needle. I've lived with
her knots under my schooldress as a fakir sleeps on nails.
Exams make my knees tremor under the table. The sweat down
my back would squelch while I drown from lack of answers.
My mother tells me to relax, forced labor has never worked.
It is renerving to whip open trigonometry books and think
of chocolates melting on my tongue, summer peaches luring
flies to their curves, test papers swirling in an empty room.
Next door the piano teacher strays from dulcet tones.
I feel his lips curl. He can be venomous with children.
They say constant job refusals does that to a man.
Lately I hear his pockets are sharp with jackknives.
These are dangerous times, he reminds everyone. He walks
daily to keep in shape. I cross streets to avoid him.
The Consequences of Monsoons
The roads are muddy this time of year.
Mosquito larvae grow fat in murky
waters, tadpoles swim round and round.
On such days the butcher closes shop,
cats stay indoors, the scholar
pours hot tea into a cracked cup.
A woman chooses this season to drain
blood from a snake, her ailing
father a stiff weight against her arm.
Outside the beggars lie paralyzed
under the drill of rain, their
walking canes like spilt matches.
Trapped at home, children hungrily
watch through foggy windows,
flies around a dead horse's mouth.
Mistress Qian Catches Her Son's Third
Naked In The Lake
Neither of them are repentant.
Her breasts curve low, like twin moons
over the Yu Mountains. This is
the night ghosts whisper their
thirst through trees and dragons bend
glistening tails to the Four Winds.
Mist hangs, a cobweb spidered
by a woman bathing in the water
and another in silk robes by the bank.
There is something bright in both
their eyes, like demons caught
in a glass phial, wings flapping.
After the fifth child, their
husbands became taken with concubines.
In the manor, they learnt to sleep
alone, tongue their pillows in
the dark, take candle smoke for
a lover's scent, keep the silence.
Under the unwinking stars, they
meet halfway and fall, side by side,
on soft ground. In their rooms,
the other wives turn restively in
their beds. It is a sleepless
hour for everyone, save the men.