When she was six her father taught her
innocence, how the eyes must empty and her face
go placid as Dongting Lake in the old pictures and songs.
Then, drifting through the bird market, she could
snatch a duckling or a dove, snap its neck
and sweep it beneath her skirt, all in one motion.
Don't think, he'd tell her. Don't even imagine
the tender flesh slipping from slender bones.
Guizhou, thirty years and half a world behind her.
Now, some mornings she'll wake in the quiet house,
and feel the wet between her legs, red droplets
berrying the white sheets. She skips breakfast
to catch the Concord Ave. bus to Fresh Pond where
she can walk the wide path around the reservoir, her eyes
crossing and re-crossing the great expanse, trawling
a hunger so deep, it swallows memory, swallows even
this lustrous April sky. It leaves her with little more
than the old song they sang, squatting there with her father
under pin-prick stars, pine twigs spitting into darkness,
still waiting for the black pot to boil.
By Steven RatinerQLRS Vol. 12 No. 4 Oct 2013