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ma and i are the living here, negotiating terrifying details under shallow breath, the dead reluctant witness to a stumbling thanks giving: a small pyramid of sunkist oranges and a pear on a red plastic lotus stout-stemmed, edges gold-painted the narrow room is rectangles of grey marble, stacked eight high to fluorescent ceiling, on each tile the face of an ancestor, behind each we know a sealed cubicle, a jar of ashes tofu and wheat gluten in a styrofoam container, white/yellow/orange mock chicken/pork/goose with eyes our nerves race to interpret, the ancestors look at us from the damp depths of the inadequacies we were so relieved to find names for, offering these again, should the nerves disrupt, or pressing tongues soft against new: a borrowed vase half full of government water and yellow chrysanthemums in unison, three bows three sticks of incense, sandalwood
ma cries, kneels to be eye level to her father’s mother, father’s father. she wets a wad of toilet paper with water from a plastic coke bottle, wipes the marble top to bottom: the name of their hometown, their names, the names of their children. she tells them: we have flown back to you from a gamble, toronto, a destiny you willed us with your sweat. after 40 years, and imagine you here, now, the dust of your bodies in cells, a low corner of a room crowding with ghosts, i always meant to come sooner, and here is my daughter yes, this is our meeting place, and i am here to give thanks: laced fruit from california, flowers from guangdong thanks for the tightness in your muscles, built to give me better that i might Teach Native English for 250 hong kong dollars an hour that i might come here to touch your cool stone searching for my, a, truth to speak you now. soon we hear footsteps the shush of fruit into plastic bag. sorry, they say, we are closing. as we leave the grounds we see them redistribute the oranges to the elderly the vegetarian food to the dogs ma’s eyes flame to mine and down. next time just fruit, she says. i say, you like dogs the women are happy, the dogs are happy. ma and i laugh dyed ripe, rush to come away from their easy togetherness.