Letter from my great-grandmother, on her deathbed
My son, remember / there is nothing so holy / it cannot be stolen / No child can keep my body / from hunger / Look / my chest hangs open as the sea / my stomach a salt-shrivelled fist / Son, lean your head to my hip
remember / how I crushed ginger to your ribs when you fell sick / rubbed warm spoons on your back / slapped flies from your lips / Remember, you lived / because I willed it
Search my veins / for the source of every bruise / wisps of prayers / all the ways I cannot protect you / Learn how to bless my body: / rinse a handful of my hair over a well / press jade beads to my lips / unbind my feet / and rub with oil / bury me in the gold necklace / only my mother could undo
Son, pull / the comb from my hair / Present it to your father’s third wife / the woman you will call / mother / Load your mouth with her accent / Teach her to hold you / the way this house holds its ghosts –
Look / so many ghosts / wait for me in the walls / like the drying rice grains / left behind in my bowl
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