We order steamed fish for the moon goddess.
My grandmother’s prayers to the lord
flap like dried eel from the low chandeliers:
O lead me to His House. I am far from home.
Tonight, we are heathens in a restaurant dying
in an English-tongued town and my grandfather’s spirit
pounds the table for another Tsingtao
for our guest’s glass. A toast to her Lunar Highness!
She smiles behind fanned starlight. We sip
from teacups kissed by a rabbit’s five-leafed foot, lick
moon-dust off chopsticks. I don’t pretend to understand:
my grandfather, a barber, died ten years ago
from work; my grandmother spends her evenings
cleaning her doorstep with bleach, keeps her heart ironed
in an ebony box. What’s real isn’t, what isn’t is.
When my grandparents bartered their mythology
for a passport, they minted us steel souls
in the great foundries of the West. I’m as vile
as a gull chasing a temporary ship, hoping for a scrap
to ease my geographic hunger. I sprinkle my history
in chicken salt. I crow in the language
of broken chimes. My ancestors lurk
on junked islands, drink comets, have cut
the hair of English lords. I’d like to explain.
But foremost, I want to be citizen of the moon.
When the goddess wipes her greased lips and looks at me
with gilded eyes, I’ll kneel at her side and pray
to stop the sun from rising. O make us
foreign to homesickness and exile. Make me
a crown of stars. I’d like to be where you’re from.
Copyright © Laura Ritland. Originally published in East and West (Véhicule Press, 2018).
Laura Ritland’s poems have appeared in magazines across Canada, including The Walrus, CNQ, Maisonneuve, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, and The Malahat Review. She is the author of the chapbook Marine Science (Anstruther 2016) and recipient of the 2014 Malahat Far Horizons Award for Poetry. Born in Toronto and raised in Vancouver, she currently divides her time along the west coast between Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area where she is a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Berkeley. Her debut collection East and West was published with Véhicule Press in spring 2018.
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