we were nineteen and on the phone and he was telling me he
was in love with the blonde and I was telling him the Chinese
character for lamp looked like a small fellow eating fire.
I was watching my aunt place jujube dates atop newspaper
pages, positioning each tart body equidistant from the other.
the windows were open. light tenderizing the fruit to small
shriveled darts. the muscle between my thighs: emptied
of song. we were nineteen and I was in my aunt’s apartment
with my skirt hiked up, reading a Chinese newspaper.
I was lazily tracing my finger over lamp, 灯, 灯, 灯,
trying to get better. pretending I was a fellow
swallowing fire. my aunt slid the dates from the paper
to a red bowl, then boiled a kettle of water.
I asked him to tell me about it: a long blonde
love, even though my ears did not want to hear.
my aunt stirred the dates with star anise, steaming
them with brown sugar. we met on a bus, he said.
the dates were medicinal. drinking them made me feel
crisp and fragrant with hope. some day he would come
around when I stuck my head out the sun roof
of his car and twisted towards the light, begging it
to enter. some day he would cup my face in his hands.
some day I would pull down my pants only to find the blood
sticky, a red wet jelly and say, I can’t, it’s that time of the month
again when the dates trained their eyes on my abdomen
and pulsed out a red muck of stars. for now I raised the phone
to my lip. he was talking about the bus, her hair, thickets.
my aunt placed the bowl in front of me and made a spoon-like
motion with her wrist. what do you think? he asked. of longing. of
hot water firing down a throat. my body hoarding its own
blood. should I go for it? he asked. I’m sick, I said.
and chugged. and chugged. and chugged.
let me begin again. nineteen, in love.
I was a small fellow eating. jujube dates.
drying out. a longing. tracing. my finger
over that muscle between my thighs
and water. brown sugar.
stirring my body, begging it to get
better. god, what did she do
to make the blood stop coming?
my aunt asked to
nobody, her eyebrows creased towards
the sky. my ears did not want
to hear. I stuck them out the sun
roof of the car to the eastern
medicine doctor’s, where he read my pulse,
prescribed medicinal dates and water. I was creamy
with hope. red muck of stars to line my
underwear. my abdomen thick
with ghosts. I took the spoon
and fired liquid down a throat.
someday I would be older and still
hold my breath every time
the blood. some day I would
position myself equidistant from
a lamp, a star, pretending I was made
of better stuff, light and darts and jelly.
for now, that time of
the month again: spoon-feeding
myself dates soaked in water. longing
for the blood to drop out, for the body to
remember itself: a hot
mammal twisted by
absence and sugar.