Mother's Gold

Mother’s trousseau
was not the 12 pieces of gold jewellery that
teochew girls brought with them
in a blessed arranged marriage
complete with horoscope compatibility,
social class equitability,
star quality…

Hers was everything but that.
She lived her wild streak, broke her mother’s heart.

Mother’s gold
is the resilience acquired with a baptism of fire
because of young love, burning bodies, steely self-pride;
silent admission of sacrifice,
(was it deserving?)
sometimes sour now in her old age.

Her earned trousseau
of gold bangles, gold rings, gold pendants, jade pieces
was the collateral security for crises;
because days in the fifties, sixties felt that way,
because being married to one you chose
against convention and reason
meant a necessary vigilance to defend
(so she explains now).

And every day still a war
with the might of money
for there is never enough
even when there is no more necessary crisis.

She bites her gold as she grits her teeth,
considers my eating out, flying around,
sinful splurges as throwaway nuggets.
My wild, goal-less days:
a way of breaking her heart.

by Heng Siok Tian
from Is My Body a Myth (2011)