the confusion of tongues
In the heat of a Beijing summer
we are sitting in the kitchen over breakfast, feet sticking to linoleum floors.
Not just a table, but a broken Babel between us,
a fallen tower that once twisted like corkscrews pushed into the sky.
The confusion of tongues. My grandmother and I.
She’s eighty one, stands five-foot-three, looks like me, but squatter and rounder than me,
and wrinkled a bit like an elephant’s knee. Smiling, cotton-haired, chinese.
This is the english-speaking grandchild’s dilemma.
There are so many things I would say to you, if only I knew how.
Instead, I write poems that you don’t understand – Grandmother,
if there is a heaven, it only has one tongue.
You and I will walk to market in the early mornings, like you loved to do,
before the age seeped into your knees.
You will weigh watermelons in two hands, guessing at their insides,
and I will carry the plastic bags that are pregnant with dinner,
all the while asking you questions,
and we will have infinite time.