– Poetry by Anita Ngai –
As if uncertain whether this house should be lit,
light reflecting off snow
shines reluctantly through the shoji
which separates the living room
from the narrow corridor facing outside.
Water in the tetsubin hanging from the ceiling
has long been boiled, ready for brewing gyokuro.
A mother and a father, kneeling next to
this burning pile in the irori,
are helpless that they too are smoldering.
The sand is raked perfectly into lines of dried ravines.
Her calves are tucked tightly under her thighs,
giving her skirts weft threads a good stretch.
Her wrinkled hands fold the white cloth
covering their daughters face
until moments ago, when the body was
taken out of the living room.
His legs are crossed, but only limply. His toes,
in gleaming white socks,
point in a haphazard direction.
They feel the fatigue as they are emptied
not like a home that gets cleaned of its dirt and dust,
but like the desiccated rice paddies behind their house,
or, the tunas, grown to full size, being gutted out,
by fishermen in the nearby market.
Shoji: Japanese door that has a wooden lattice frame covered with translucent paper
Tetsubin: Cast iron pot
Gyokuro: A type of green tea grown in the shade, unlike others that are not shielded. Usually steeped at a much lower temperature than other teas
Irori: Traditional Japanese sunken hearth filled with sand
About the Author – Anita Ngai
Anita Ngai is a poet based in Vancouver, Canada and is currently completing her MFA with Warren Wilson College. She was born in Hong Kong and studied on the east coast of the US. Her writing has appeared in Figroot Press, Talking River, Junto Magazine, Temenos, and Lit Crawl SF, as well as various architecture magazines. She has worked as a structural engineer, a strategy consultant, and a digital marketer for tech start-ups.
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