Jocelyn Chen

Red is a Lucky Color

             I pick up the burgundy telephone,
             it’s my grandma, or​ wai po.
                          I exclaim, happy lunar new year!
                          She asks, excuse me?
             I repeat the phrase in faulty Chinese,
her laugh sounds like wind chimes.
             I forget my greetings and poems,
             and my syllables turn into fragile porcelain.
She asks, can you handle the heat?
             I ask, pardon,​ wai po​?
             She exclaims, the bubbling hot pot, of course!
             No, ​wai po​, I sigh.
My face flushes red from the spice,
             and she asks, have you been practicing?
Practicing what,​ wai po​? I demand.
             Your calligraphy, she beams.
I try to recollect the black, blotched strokes…
             No,​ wai po,​ I lower my head.
You haven’t called often, her voice whispers.
             I hear her pause,
             as beer bottles clink together in the background…
Are you neglecting your culture?
                                       No, ​wai po​, I cry in dismay…
                                                    I love my culture…
                                                                 She hangs up.
                                                                              But I might…

backyard birds

they were blue,
with soft, fragile feathers,
my father had bought them to spruce up the backyard.

they were fake,
with eyes hollow and black,
and they lay in a cardboard box, light and unseen.

my father left the box at the front door,
forgetting about the things.
my mother picked up the box and shoved it in the trash.

again, it was light and sprinkled with paper,
if you did not look inside carefully,
you wouldn’t have noticed the fake birds at all.

father yelled,
mother lowered her head,
the backyard birds were gone, and could not serve any backyard.

it’s just a bunch of birds, I wanted to murmur,
but the house was already dim with quiet.
I wrapped my arms around my mother and watched her scrub at the dishes.

one day, my father would just be another backyard bird,
i can guarantee it,
one day, he shall go unnoticed, unseen, and shall remain that way

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