There is something tragic about pouring tea. Dispensing
worth in the thickness of steam clouds and the pallor of
the tea after it settles in the porcelain. As I got older I
would automatically turn the Lazy Suzan clockwise to my
father before my mother's mother and I understood why
my own tea was darkened and selfless. Every Sunday
Confucianism became our religion—we would all go out
for dim sum and my father would order the Chrysanthemum
tea. Every Sunday, I knew precisely when to stop pouring
the tea by the number of times a bowed fist knocked the top
of the table. My father's knocks in particular. Two thumps,
clinical, scarcely a pause between each time his bent
metacarpal bones bucked the cloth covered beech wood. Those
bones that would never turn over the lid of an empty pot.
You truly love someone when you dream of his death.
- Vietnamese saying
I believe my mother and her sister
when they say I have the face
of their brother, Thua, my uncle
who died when he was barely twenty.
I once had a dream of a funeral,
my mother and aunt, still young
peasant girls, shy as mice,
standing behind a casket.
I looked at the face in the casket,
and it was mine, eyebrows
like dark feathers, the small nose,
the face angular and brown
as a block of wood.
Surely, it must have been my uncle;
I could never love myself enough
to dream of my own dying.