Chinese New Year

Rating: 4.6

The dragon is in the street dancing beneath windows
pasted with colored squares, past the man
who leans into the phone booth's red pagoda, past
crates of doves and roosters veiled

until dawn. Fireworks complicate the streets
with sulphur as people exchange gold
and silver foil, money to appease ghosts
who linger, needy even in death. I am

almost invisible. Hands could pass through me
effortlessly. This is how it is
to be so alien that my name falls from me, grows
untranslatable as the shop signs,

the odors of ginseng and black fungus that idle
in the stairwell, the corridor where
the doors are blue months ajar. Hands
gesture in the smoke, the partial moon

of a face. For hours the soft numeric
click of mah-jongg tiles drifts
down the hallway where languid Mai trails
her musk of sex and narcotics.

There is no grief in this, only the old year
consuming itself, the door knob blazing
in my hand beneath the lightbulb's electric jewel.
Between voices and fireworks

wind works bricks to dust—hush, hush—
no language I want to learn. I can touch
the sill worn by hands I'll never know
in this room with its low table

where I brew chrysanthemum tea. The sign
for Jade Palace sheds green corollas
on the floor. It's dangerous to stand here
in the chastening glow, darkening

my eyes in the mirror with the gulf of the rest
of my life widening away from me, waiting
for the man I married to pass beneath
the sign of the building, to climb

the five flights and say his Chinese name for me.
He'll rise up out of the puzzling streets
where men pass bottles of rice liquor, where
the new year is liquor, the black bottle

the whole district is waiting for, like
some benevolent arrest—the moment
when men and women turn to each other and dissolve
each bad bet, every sly mischance,

the dalliance of hands. They turn in lamplight
the way I turn now. Wai Min is in the doorway.
He brings fish. He brings lotus root.
He brings me ghost money.

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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Susan Williams 03 January 2016

The artistry in this is superlative. The impactful way she combines words to describe things in new and novel ways has me in awe of her talent. And this poem puts me there in that celebration in ways both physical and emotional. For example: the dalliance of hands, It's dangerous to stand here in the chastening glow, darkening

25 0 Reply
Kim Barney 03 January 2016

Wai Min is in the doorway. He brings fish. He brings lotus root. He brings me ghost money. Does anyone know what she meant by 'ghost money'?

0 0 Reply
Manonton Dalan 03 January 2016

I like Chinese new year....lots of food

1 1 Reply
Ratnakar Mandlik 03 January 2016

Beautiful narration of the Chinese's New Year celebrations. Quite entertaining. Thanks for sharing.10 points.

1 0 Reply