Mother’s Song

Beautiful man, milk teeth bared in a trap,
          Whose mouth curls in despair,
          She smiles at your face.

Beautiful man, twitching boy’s shoulders
          Like many golden carp
          Swimming to her gaze.

Beautiful man, your white skin turns redder,
          Your slit eyes grow wide,
          Your chin’s fuzzed with moth.

Beautiful man, fingers knifing, stab
          Or roll, winding up thoughts
          Like fine hair, like cloth.

Beautiful man, leaning back stock-still, now
          Bunched in fury, fishy,
          You play at the groom.

Beautiful man, crowsfeet walk your brow.
          Your head pulls as the tide
          Silvering the room.

Beautiful man, bitter, slipping her grasp.
          Like strong medicine, harsh tea,
          She swallows her doubts.

by Shirley Geok-lin Lim
from Crossing the Peninsula (1980)