a familiar taste By Yong-Yu Huang

a familiar taste

for the childhood that could have been

i could have stayed and learned
zhuyin fuhao until i could feel the
soft cadences under my tongue even
in sleep. what should have come to
me as easily as singing the ABCs now
require thought––and I feel cheated of
a birthright.

i try my best to fashion
a replacement with sweating fingers
and a cottony tongue, but I am no
artisan, no syllable-spinner.
my parents try too—
perhaps guilt dwells heavier on their minds
when they see me gaze, uncomprehending,
at Taipei street signs. the words taste like
home to them and a destination to me.

they cover my eyes,
calluses scraping paper-thin lids,
when we walk past a horror movie ad,
the title in characters dripping red.
maybe they wish that they could press
understanding into my eyes, that the
heat of their palms will burn the
stories behind the strokes into existence.
they’ve yet to find an herbal balm
to rub into pulse points
that can fix this.

in my mind, zhuyin fuhao
meld into the alphabet:
ㄅ (buh) echoes into a b, the
soft uncertainty at the end fading away.
ㄒ looks like a t, but sounds softer,
almost lisp-like, wind whistling.
ㄓ is a honey-drenched j,
syrupy and heavy on my tongue,
coalescing into something solid,

they taste like something
i should know.

By Yong-Yu Huang


Yong-Yu Huang is a Taiwanese teenager based in Malaysia. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Heritage Review, Parallax Literary Journal, and Eunoia Review. In her spare time, she can be found playing the flute or binge-watching Doctor Who.

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