Candies of Xianhao

Summer days arrive again
and I remember how our squirming fingers stole
White Rabbit candies once
from the dusty convenience store on Xianhao street.
Later on, the storekeeper twisted my soft arm twice,
see-through bone.

Pa told us to keep the ache, to bury it,
to never let it go. To learn how it spreads
on our skin like opened lotuses
and red bean paste.
He told us it would break us
make us rigid, stronger. A boy
learns to hold his tears
like newborns swaddled in silk blankets,
he holds them so they never escape.

Milk-flavored candies. 奶 —
if only they remained half-melted
under my tongue.
Grow thick bones to become rigid
and bite candy to sweeten
the ache; the rot.
In this way, I tell myself,
I am strong.

Kevin Gu