by Sandra Faith Tan
It was the guzheng music issuing from a busker I passed on the street:
I recalled my po po’s house, where wayang music
filtered through the window on its strung and ringing notes,
the spare bedroom
stoppered in dim time, receding from the age,
the bed covered with crinkly, faded plastic sheeting
over pasar malam flower-patterned bedsheet.
Rattan chair striving in the room to bear
my gong gong’s weight, sided by the television
playing a late-night charity performance—
or perhaps the screen had fallen silent
with the house and only the stale night’s billow
sought timidly, weaving the rooms and screens.
To my recall, further, comes the porcelain flower-vase
standing taller than a child with its mysterious mouth
into which I never could peer. The kitchen which,
in communal lunar new year, numerous plates
would be spread, each bearing a family’s dish,
and the table would vanish under the food.
Even the metal pots on the stove would brim
afield with customary soup and dark sauces.
And the pair of inexpensive matryoshka dolls
po po kept in the bottom drawer— I had no toys
there, in her house, save a plastic treasury
of Happy Meal figurines and other small beings
I had outgrown. I remember her drawing them
from their musty plastic bags and settling them
on the floor. Here, in her slow mandarin
pacing with my unused ears, I only have these
but they are good to play with.