In Which my Aunt Comes Home with an H&M Bag and an Apology
— Bessie Huang

wai po says the young are bad-tempered

& everyone is flawed in some way. I tell her

I agree.

I am not saying what I mean.

When she asks me pei wo ba & I drop

my shoulders, I mean I am too busy

to feel bad.

Too busy to wake

to the sound

of icepick heels & my aunt’s arrogant,

cerulean dress,

wai po bent over, wringing

oolong into a basin of swirling grime.

The backs of her hands bloated

with belly scars. Someone screams

something about deathwork

& apathy & I pretend I don't hear

it or I don't know who it is. I don't know

who it is. The problem is

wai po only knows how to speak

in echoes. Her words lost & puddling  

beneath her tongue.

I have only seen

her hands

touch gentle things:

tug through my cousin's hair,

tuck circles of apricot

flour into bao zi,

stack them lightly

upon the kitchen counter, the skin

still sticky & hot. She lets me believe

she is too happy

to have suffered. I have only noticed

this recently.

She sits inside the alcove

on the first floor each evening

& waits for the sky

to bruise.


Bessie Huang is seventeen years old, hails from Maryland, sits exclusively in lotus pose, and prefers to go by Ivy, at least for now.