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.