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Chinese New Year

BY ORIANA TANG

Honorable Mention for the 2014 Adroit Prize for Poetry
Judge: Richie Hofmann

 

 

The skill to eating whole fish
is picking out the skeleton,
porcupine quill bones pearl
white against the flesh.  My
father likes to speak of an aunt
who ate from one side of the mouth
and spit bones from the other, their
curved coldness blunt
against the soft of her cheeks.
My mother likes to speak
of the proper way to cook whole fish:
steamed, the scales scraped off
by hand, a slit along the stomach.

This year my father partitions
the flesh.  This year my mother watches
dancers in silk flow in the living room;
my sister sits reading.  An infected silence.
Outside, an eyelash moon.  New harvest.
Years ago, an actress with her eyes taped
won an Oscar for playing Chinese.
Someone with their laundry strung
across the living room throws a firecracker
out the window.  Years ago, someone
unraveled a foot, birthed a beautiful cripple.

When my grandmother was still alive
she pressed an orange into my palm today
and clattered in her typewriter tongue
of good fortune.  Here is her scrubbed apartment
with its gray corners and grease smoke kitchen
and luck upside down on the peeling door, here
are her shaking hands smoothing
the glossy green of the orange tree,
gutting the fish.  The muted clicks of her voice
calling for the weight
of laughter around the table: yes,
and hope for the new year.  

 

 

Transient

Oriana Tang is a rising senior at Livingston High School in Livingston, NJ.  Her poetry and short stories have been commended by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the National YoungArts Foundation, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards, the Bennington College Young Writers Awards, and others, and have appeared or are forthcoming in Killing the Angel, Winter Tangerine Review, and The Best Teen Writing of 2014.