I think of my mother now Who tells me she's never been in love "Oh, I knew it existed In other countries -- wrapped in gold foil Like fancy chocolates in a boutique shop When I was 16, I read about it In a contraband French novel, Balzac's Nana, with a flashlight under covers My face burned hot and cold all night I thought it was the best stuff in the world How your whole body could be set in flames But in those sorrowful days When my family was trod underfoot How could you afford such costly feelings? To trust in anyone who did not share your blood Was a sure sign of insanity Our love was like that of burrowing animals Fretful and full of anxious care Wanting to eat and afraid of being eaten This was my love for your father I loved his broad shoulders, his hard hands Tempered by rage, that could shield me From the cruel winds, though I knew Those same hands would also turn against me This, too, is the love we bore for you Silent, fretful and afraid to say its name." Now in a country where it bubbles everywhere Fizzy sweet like sodapop This, too, is the love I bear Silent, shy and laden with the stubborn longing Of many who never knew tenderness A sprig of wildflowers plucked Bright and innocent from the soil Fed with how many ancient tears *
Mike Zhai was born in Shanghai and grew up on the West Coast of the United States. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the founder and facilitator of One Pause Poetry Salon.
Read more Mike Zhai poems published in Orange Quarterly: