Countries follow—

tuck into the dark, a rolled up sleeve,

a luggage pocket,

numbers scrawled on a paper scrap,

they bite and harden the hope

you cradle in a new land.

 

The sounds scrape—

cold fingers press cat gut strings

against a narrow neck

of cherry.

Horsehair pulled taut.

The discord and pitch

a glorious freedom.

You breathe tiny clouds

suspended in a cold garage.

A violin returned.

Beauty silenced.

Music a family could never understand.

 

You fled with vengeance.

The gray shoreline with the sky

bends to the surface

calls you home.

Your loyalty

unforgiving.

You show our son the church

that could not break your spirit.

Watch him roll down hills

of black and beige stones,

run across a pitch of green so wide

your heart aches.

You want him to know this land,

this town, this family

who thought you both strange and a stranger,

The fright of difference paralyzes.

Here I dive into newspapers and books,

make puddings and roasts.

I come to this land

a visitor, a tourist, your wife.

We inhabit a third together.

 

An Empire’s demise determined my life

though you rejected its crown, its god,

its people,

and adopted nothing to replace it.

And so, in this purgatory,

a place borrowed and returned,

we stay handcuffed to glass towers and commerce,

indifferent, restless, curious.

 

Geography opens, continents remain.

Expatriates at the mercy of memory

harnessed by clocks, dollars, and duties,

the scramble to become,

in search of a place

to call home.

 

 

Stephanie Han (MA, MFA) lives in Mui Wo, Hong Kong. Her fiction/poetry featured in Kyoto Journal, Louisville Review, South China Morning PostNimrod International Literary JournalWomen’s Studies Quarterly, and the anthologies PEN West Strange Cargo, Asian American Women Artists Cheers to Muses. Work is forthcoming in the following anthologies:  The Queen of Statue Square: New Short Fiction from Hong KongTao of Parenthood, and How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?: True Stories of Expat Women in Asia. Ampersand poems are excerpts from an unpublished poetry collection, Expatriate.” Contact: www.stephaniehan.com.

Photo by seeker-of-revelation, used by permission. See more of his work on DeviantArt.

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