by Cheryl Julia Lee
Grandma was too small to move a mountain
so they made her wash dishes instead. Her hands
cracked for the first time underwater,
again when she brushed a stray strand of hair
from her face, again when her touch
made baby cry. But Grandma is good
at doing what she has to do. She rubs
her cries into splintered hands, wipes the broken
syllable from her lips, and keeps on scrubbing.
Even later when they made her carry
the laundry on a bamboo pole, the wood
rubbing away at her skin, she bore it like a proud
flag bearer. These earthquakes tearing up fault lines
on her palms are too small, too local
and no one notices that she strokes with knuckles,
that she sits always with folded hands,
that the fortune teller cannot tell her future.
Reprinted with the author’s and publisher’s permissions, the poem appears in We Were Always Eating Expired Things by Cheryl Julia Lee (Math Paper Press).
Cheryl Julia Lee is a postgraduate student at Trinity College Dublin. Her work has been published in QLRS, The Adroit Journal, and Prick of the Spindle, among others. Her poetry collection We Were Always Eating Expired Things was published in 2014.