Plum Tea

Her voice, gently rattling
like a bamboo thicket in the breeze—
greets me as I step over the threshold.
Xiang si ni le:
“I’ve missed you to death.”

Silver tresses gathered 
cautiously atop her head
are a silk cocoon,
washed gold by the stroke of evening’s hue.

Six years crept, patiently by, 
last I’ve glimpsed Great Aunt—
last I’ve trod into the foreign embrace
of my familial homeland.

I watch as her weathered fingers stir
sweet plum tea—
tendrils of steam take flight, marrying aromas
of millennia-steeped tradition
dancing above blackened stovetops.

Lambent shadows paint over cracks
in the ashen walls. Our words blend,
ringing, singing, melting
into the midsummer heat,
scattered amongst dusk’s slipping embers

Into my palm she presses, as I step beneath the stars, 
a jar of twilight-tinted drupes. Dark plums plucked
for late night brews:
“Now, bao bei, you may make your own.” 

Tiled rooftops and dusty orchards 
dissolve as my cab pulls ever closer to the
eerie glow of skyscrapers – concrete barbs:
the spine of an industrial dragon 
slumbering over the horizon.

Billboards begin their race before my weary eyes,
offering tea-scented soaps and prune-flavoured gums.
Neon lights and alien sights;
my gaze wanders back to 
Great Aunt’s plums, like a traveler 
returning to a distant home.

Maggie Lu

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