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Lunar New Year Conversation

Over on the other side of the world, my māma’s home / is lonely, full of love. Her voice on
the other end of the phone / low as a dip in the cold, basin below the earth, low / like bass, like
the murmur in my chest, and shy, and faint, / footfall on clock-ice. Wéi? Māma // is low as the
moon, as space. I am praying for the stars to shine / beside her smile, which currently sits
cautious curled up precarious atop / her reading glasses and mainly in the dark. Wéi? // Wéi, nǐ
tīng dé jiàn wǒ ma? Are you there? À. Her voice low // as the blues, the shakier moments of
the day, as jelly legs, / as hands pressed to my stomach. Ng. She softens // for her mother,
because lăo lao has ears / and a seventy-five-year-old heart we dare not strum. Māma, / are you
okay? Wéi? What’s in a whisper / I can’t hear? The crackle of the phone vast. It’s as if / there
are tens of thousands of / elbows jostling between us. // I stay reaching. Wéi, nǐ tīng dé jiàn wǒ
ma? Where are your / brothers and your sisters? Lăo lao has ears / and a mouth they don’t like
to / soothe or tiptoe around, and a heart, spooked, / full of love. You dare not strum, but you
summon every / string in your body and place them gently in her hands. Māma, // I love you.
Wéi? Take care. What spooks a heart? Memory. / And aliens. Fighting a cosmic battle. And
there amid brushstroke and mountain rock, thick stone masks in family portrait at nondescript
restaurant / you send over WeChat. Guān Yīn, did you know/ my māma’s home is singing
the blues / in Mandarin, and sanded skin, and she doesn’t know / what to do with all the love /
blaring from the TV screen, and lăo lao has ears / and a flare-up heart, thundering, to the
rescue, / and our salvation, and / she says she will have wings, // her voice shrill, well-meaning,
superhero, invasion, fuming, / smoking out my māma’s voice? Lonely // ache together. Three
plus / generations. And tens of thousands of elbows. Where are our / brothers and our sisters?
The crackle of the phone vast. I am praying for the stars to shine. // Over on the other side of
the world, my māma / is low as the moon, as space, filling my head.

Minying Huang grew up in Cambridge, UK. Her poems have appeared in PANK, Nat. Brut, and Electric Literature, among others. She is studying for an MA in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.