By: Alison Zheng
Of the Sea
I called her neh neh, not nai nai &
not po po. My parents called her
海南婆. She was from an island
blue of the sea. We lived in her
basement next to the donut shop
on Mission & Excelsior. She stole
Sanrio stickers from her grand-
children & gave them to me. My
parents couldn’t afford preschool.
Neh Neh was my first friend. Her
mother tongue second. They told
me neh neh died five years too late.
They didn’t think I’d understand.
I don’t speak Hainanese anymore.
Jade Will Always Break
Jade will always break so that you don’t. Mine
shattered in the karaoke bar’s bathroom stall.
Shaky knees on sticky floor. I used my iPhone’s
flashlight to recover stone fragments. But, I knew
there was no going back. We could not be repaired.
Like a dog, she pawed at me until I was no longer
whole. ______ & ______ became one & the same.
We were two sides of the same coin coated in the
dizziness of freedom* turning green. Or, so she
thought. I think German words. Saccharine grows
metallic. Saccharine minces with salt. But, I’m an
earthquake baby, & I am no longer afraid.
I spend winter detoxing in the afterglow of a Chinese
sunrise. Every morning, I kiss it sakura pink. It tastes
like og kush & marzipan. I’m comforted by fog drifting
in & out of focus. In the distance, the big mamas* dance.
*Kierkegaard called anxiety the dizziness of freedom.
*Slang for the older women that group dance in parks & other public spaces all over China and Chinese enclaves in the US. Technically, ‘older’ or ‘grand’ mamas would be a more accurate translation of the term.
Alison Zheng’s work is published in or forthcoming from Sine Theta Mag, Honey Literary, and more. She’s a poetry reader for Non.Plus Lit. Her manuscript was a finalist in Gold Line Press‘s Chapbook Competition. She tweets from @aliberryzheng.