The Law of Second Marriages

There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

Every Chinese New Year,
we will go to the temple, to offer up incense
and food to father,
and every year, we'll be late—
the family flaw.
While other families have
already packed and gone,
I'll be waiting for mother and brother
(uncle stopped coming after the first few years),
for him to wake up, for her to show
or not.
A ritual of memory and obligation,
not belief
(or we'll be ill-treating the dead,
by being late)
we stand, incense in hand,
in front of the smiling oval
black-and-white photo for his niche,
my mother praying loudly,
without irony, for us to marry,
give her grandchildren quickly,
what was wrong with us,
so good-looking and so smart
and all for what?

Keeping quiet about brother's girlfriend
whom she chased away,
I bowed and prayed for
father's hopes for the afterlife.
A punter to the end,
he liked to bet against the odds;
not just on horses.
His first marriage failed
and he lost three grown children,
my half-siblings, never seen,
never known, somewhere out there.
He married again,
even though second marriages
often failed faster than first ones.
Was it love or hope
that moved him to bet again?
Risk-averse, I'd never
bet on love to last.

“Hope is the substance of things not seen,”
my pastor liked to say,
his own faith based on hope.
On such hope of love everlasting
with the Heavenly Bridegroom,
men and women vowed themselves to celibacy;
big bets on Pascal's Wager, punters
unlike my father
who lost twice
at marriage.

Yet he might still win
after all, the big
sweet ever after.

by Christine Chia
from The Law of Second Marriages (2011)


SELECTED POEMS: "The Last Leaf (A Ghazal)" >