Try grasping a piece of wood
between your thumb, middle
& ring finger – as if the drip-
dripping of ink was a typhoon
you could play in. Loosen the
right wrist, scrape the weight
of too-much from brush/heart
across ink bowl; let its round
rim reassure. Sculpt the brush-
tip till shrill: sharp as papercut.
Let ink seep: a dot, a line, then
a mad dash to the last stroke till
interlocking arms form terraced
paddies bursting with meaning:
the character fortune made up of
the shirt on your back, the roof
over your head & the promise
of a stomach satisfied with rice.
When people ask why, reply:
my mother wished I would
write with the grace of those
ancient Chinese poets whose
tapestry now slips easily from
my ten-year-old tongue into a
diptych of shapes. Hour upon
hour, my wrist aches as the ink
dries to a crust. My eyes blink
back water, but this is precisely
the moment to continue. Once
more the fingers dip, slide, lift.
I am not a dancer, but this is
a dance. My mother tells me:
see how Chinese characters are
sunflowers that seek out the eyes.
Seeds of ink unfurl suddenly from
your wrist, blooming into time –
The Importance of Tea
When your aunt arrived, she asked for normal tea, which, to my untrained ears, sounded a bit like normality. In Hong Kong, normal tea is green, or white, or red. It took my mind several moments to move from green to white to red to land on black. Your aunt was flexible: any Assam, Darjeeling, or Earl Grey? We only had Matcha, some loose-leaf Iron-Buddha in the cupboard, no milk. Your aunt looked at you as if you’d failed at being British, me as if I’d failed to properly assimilate. After, you said I was projecting onto your aunt the fears I harboured. No matter how many years I’ve spent in this country, how I interpret normal tea, what is normal to me. You are learning Mandarin Chinese. I see how the characters are split for you: signifier and signified refuse to conjoin. That’s what happened when your aunt asked for the normal tea. When a waiter brought white sugar for our Sencha green, I caught your gaze. We laughed and left the sachets unopened.