My grandmother still warns me against over salting –
unless I want to live my days as a brown bat. Her stories are grainy, sepia-tinged,
in her mama’s dialect: a string of lilting chimes and gingered honey
I hear when I’ve helped to roll out dumpling skins or
politely greeted her friends, my aunties, in our shared tongue.
I get a call from her, every week or so, from the other end of the world
she tells me with a wink,
yesterday I read that eating dates are good for your woman’s day. The next week,
it will be almonds, ginseng, plump red goji berries
elevated to her gold standard advice. These days, knowing her is like practicing voodoo
in the information age – I sometimes forget that magic drips from her veins,
into the pores of my skin, oily and glistening, floating in the air,
dusting onto the eyelashes of my brother, my sister, my lover, my neighbors…
this morning I struggle with a pivot table on my third computer screen but
I remember once, she was bitten by a scorpion and a medical man chanted spells to treat her wound…
it was all nonsense, she told me chuckling, just what we did in those days.
She feeds me these yarns and so I braid them back into your hairs.
When the time comes, I reach back to my grandmother, drink
from her clay teapot filled with the mysticism from a different architect. The taste is
nimble, fragrant, mellow… like the pear juice she brews on the
stove top when my throat sored. I’ve tried with the same fruit, same water,
same sugars dozens of times.
It’s never quite the same.
姥姥魔法 | A translation by John Zhu
我姥姥总是提醒吃食不能太咸 除非我想变成一只褐色的夜陌虎 她的故事有些失色， 模糊 只记得她京腔京韵 抑扬顿挫, 味如姜蜜。 在我帮她擀饺子皮时 曾听到 在迎接她朋友时 曾听到 在姨姥姥们和妈妈的口音里 曾听到 在每周她打电话问候时 从大洋的哪一岸，她眨眨眼睛, 也听到 上次，红枣会缓解经痛 下次是杏仁， 是人参， 是鲜红的枸杞 在她金钟的语调里飘出来。 她竟有这许多魔法 在这信息时代 我有时忘记这魔力从她的静脉 滴注到我的毛孔 润泽，晶莹，在空中飘逸 沉降到我弟弟， 我妹妹， 我的情人， 我的邻居 的眼睫。 今天上午 我在三个视频上费力地整理数据 突然想起她被蛇咬时 曾请来的药师的念诵 这显得荒诞无羁的秘密, 在她呵呵的轻笑中 变成我们哪些日子里的记忆 象她双手上的毛线 一圈圈的放出 让我编织到你的发际 不时的，我转身 从她世外而神秘的陶壶里 茗一口茶 口感清快， 芳香， 醇厚 就像我每次喉痛时 她在灶上煮着的梨汤 我曾十数次 选过同种的梨 同源的水 和同季的蜜 从来未曾有相同的效力
About the Poet
Molly Zhu is a new poet, and she lives in Brooklyn, New York. For her day job, she is a corporate attorney and in her free time, she loves thinking about words and reading and eating. She has previously published in the Rising Phoenix Review, the Ghost City Press, 805 Lit + Art, the Bombay Review, and Uppagus. You can find her on Instagram at: @mlz316
For the first time in nearly five years, Vita Brevis is closed for submission. Read the full story here.