EMERGING ARTISTS & WRITERS
MY FATHER WRITES TO ME WITH HIS SLIM CIGARETTE
It has been eighteen years / since the day you were born / the day I was twenty nine standing beside an apple tree / feeding nestlings / to know how they were able to learn / to know the touch of bark / the smell of apple blossoms / coarseness / softness / chilliness of April / all under the weight of water / I remember / how Grandfather first taught me in Chinese / the meaning of “未雨绸缪” / “to save for a rainy day” / here is all the rain / I have been collecting for you / in a bucket
Daughter / yesterday in church I read the Bible on my knees / praying for the body of a sparrow / I found on my windowsill / “there is nothing new under the sun” / I thought of the moment it was born / the moment it died / its head drenched by raindrops / when I came back I spent all afternoon stewing fish soup / with parsley and spring onions / ginger and Sichuan peppercorns / the recipe I’d inherited from Grandfather / along with his sweaty palms / his wrist bones / his way of holding chopsticks and stirring the soup / I realized I had put too much spice / I was never as good a cook as my father / and it made me wonder / what you inherited from me / and you were also away from me / I imagined you to be in NYC / tasting fish soup on 110th Street / picking out bones with your right thumb and index finger / the same way I did / I wondered if our wet hands were all pulled out from our fathers’ rain buckets / scaleless ones / slippery as our traditions / we couldn’t hold on / never let go
Ziqi Lei is a high school student at the Pennington School, NJ. She has studied creative writing at the Interlochen Arts Camp and the Columbia University Summer Program for High School Students. Her poetry was recently recognized by the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest sponsored by Hollins University.