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Tug on my strings. I can't reach them. Circuitry of subway systems & homeland security etched into our thumbs. We gain access to rice smell fogging up shower tiles. We pick apart fruit. It’s our favorite sport. Spring appears, bouncy on my mother's rings, sparkling as she manipulates the sweet flecks of citrus. Float into my mouth. If I hang a piece of lemon above your bed, would you thirst for it or let it dry?





To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, the year my mother was born. The 1960s—a time of heartbreak & optimism, the headlines say. As a child, I would fall asleep staring into the open bedroom closet where my mother kept her books for ESL classes at the community college, To Kill a Mockingbird being one of those. I can still smell the brown leather backpack that held her books. In eighth grade we were assigned to read To Kill A Mockingbird & I went back to my mother’s closet to borrow hers. I wrote my name in permanent marker in a corner of the book cover, so as to claim it was mine. To protect the fact that I am my mother’s—her only child—that I am the sole custodian of her narrative & any threads that touch it. Responsible for carrying my mother’s story in my body, I am an archive & excavator, an act of preservation & a pair of binoculars in a Ziploc bag. I fold in both of my first languages for my mother / my future daughter. Last night I stumbled upon a website with photos of confluences around the world, understanding where two bodies of water meet & that eventually they do mix.





Over breakfast I describe it to her as green glass hair

Which we braid at the bottom of the sea

In order to go there, first we gather tiny green apples

A necklace of dried lotus seeds around a new bride’s neck

Eight cartfuls of longan & lychee, unsweetened

An arm’s length of pearl barley laid out on a cloth the width of this door we walked through

Five women carrying mung beans in their mouths

Crossing a sea of milk they fed to their children

Each bean softens with her migration through trauma

A handful of dried dates that have fallen from your eyelids

A swimming pool of snow fungus knotted up like a net

A hundred haircuts worth of kelp

My grandfather in his wheelchair eclipsed by a mountain of ginseng

Rock sugar melting gold across the grainy fields





We have a long way to go

Learning to peel mangoes without fear

Học ăn, học nói

Học gói, học mở

How to eat, how to speak

How to close, how to open

Everything must be learned

I was scolded for incorrectly cutting a mooncake

Here are stems from which multiple leaves may flourish

Obtain seeds through normal channels

Pinch back the growing center

With regular care, it will grow

The thorns edging the leaves won't hurt you





I want to be soft when gently pressed between your thumb & index finger

A generation eats salt

The future thirsts for water

A father feeds his daughter Costco meatballs in a paper bowl

Her mother splits open a rambutan with her teeth

We made rings out of longan seeds for our tiny fingers

With a shoestring we pulled a piece of bark, an immortal pet

We grow up being taught to eat outside of the box

Can you believe the only option for rice in California grocery stores for a while was Zatarains?

A trumpet for a sun

Certainty reincarnated as chicken hearts cooked in bitter greens

Supertop dining room

A man walks down the street at night pulling a cart of steamed peanuts

Drumming a chopstick on a metal lid of the pot

Striking midnight



Stacey Tran

Stacey Tran is a writer from Portland, OR. She curates Tender Table and her writing can be found in diaCRITICS, The Fanzine, Gramma, and The Volta. Wendy's Subway released her first chapbook, Fake Haiku (February 2017). Her first full-length book, Soap for the Dogsis forthcoming from Gramma (Spring 2018).


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 17-JAN 18

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