My mother dyes her hair rust brown to hide the
tiredness seeping into the roots. She sighs that it’s
been over twenty years since she left China with
little more than bright eyes and two luggage bags,
heavy only with hope. Her eyes are dull now, the
warm years washed away like stones tumbling
down a fast and unstoppable yellow river.
Stirring steamed egg dough soup in the metal pot,
she tells us to treasure our skin—the canvas of youth
yet to be eroded by years of rain like hers was. She
recalls the days as a girl scrubbing underwear on a
fat wooden board, wind so bitter it sucks marrow
from the deep cracks in the backs of her hands. Water
turning clear red, tainted by the fumes of strangers.
When I was five, a delusional cousin tried to stab me
with scissors, she says, parting her wintry hair to
reveal a jagged light pink scar. Ten stitches, she laughs,
but my mother’s eyes are full of sadness . The family she
was forced to leave at the other side of the world. Days
spent on a farm playing with chickens, one of which ,
her favorite, who died because it was her birthday
and she fed it too much cake. It is almost another life
she says at last, turning away to face our mounted TV
with three-sixty surround sound. Sounds of a running
Chinese drama play in the background, filling the room
with the cries and clashes of another century.
The echoes of a past life, of multiple and parallel lives —
I wonder what they were. Who the cousin was.
Who my mother was. Who I am now.
By Cindy Song
Cindy Song is a high school junior attending Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. Her poetry and prose have been recognized by the National Poetry Quarterly and the PTA Reflections program. In addition to writing, she likes going outside for walks, working on paintings, and catching up on her favorite shows.