House empty, my sister and I carpet-deep in mystery,
try to piece together our parents again.
While they’re shopping at Sam’s Club, we wonder about Tianjing,
how two people so opposite could end up living together in New Jersey.
We’ve heard the stories about days on dirt roads,
selling radishes from carts, catching frogs in the mud.
We’ve heard about roof hidings, staying silent when the guards come through,
red, at the struggle, closing their eyes.
They lash out at us during dinner: something small,
a dropped piece of pork, a laugh too loud.
They say quiet you, they say look at you wasting that,
the hours it took the meat to stew.
We sit at the silent room table mute as brooms,
eyeing each other as they turn to China Central Television:
a reenactment of the march, again a fight against the Japanese,
again a story of family, growing old, and lacking. We watch them recede,
the way mom forgets to close her jaw,
the way dad wraps his legs into a twist.
My sister and I, we hunger for who we are, so washed up on the shores,
America ringing in our ear trying to put together the pieces.
We’ve asked so much, and our parents are mines, our arms
tired from digging, their defenses are rock tearing up
our knees trying to lift the past, nearly buried in haunting.
I know so little of our story, I spend all day creating myself.
My mind makes up a banquet and all the guests at the table,
and it wounds my parents to open up their chests just so we can peer inside,
we are vulture children. We have hungered for too long
and now we won’t stop until our bellies bloat with the answers.
One only has lean memories of who mattered and why.
My father clammed up after the amens, and I
a fractured fault breaking for attention.
The night sky is a beehive of girls who mix and kiss,
and I watched you like a damn souffle that never rose,
heavy with love and a cut-out where my old man should be,
a tailbone you can’t swing from but only blacken,
and take the circle line twenty times around this island, drunk on cotton candy.
Another girl jumps off a moving merry-go-round to change her life,
one black summer night,
divested of its garland,
lilies sewn on dead pink frogs,
I am a Generation of Leaving,
a river of silver roaming through my father’s mouth.
All lines except the 3rd from work by the following poets:)
Justine Khazen, Deborah Lawson Scott, Jack Lazar , Stephanie Berger, Beth Barad, Justin Ruppel, Elizabeth J. Coleman, Amy Nash, Meghan Adler, Nick Flynn, Boo Trundle, Sasha Smith, Jordan E. Franklin.
Cat Wei holds a BA in Comparative Literature and a BS in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her translation of contemporary Chinese poetry has been published in Poetry Sky magazine. She grew up in China, Germany, and New Jersey, and currently resides in New York. She is from somewhere in between.