Making Glutinous Dumplings with My Mother

Letitia Chan

The kitchen drips with steam and in it stands my mother
whom I cannot recognize. She puts balls of sesame
inside bigger folds of dough, white in her pale cracked palms.
Under the acrylic my mother’s nails are short and small,
bent as umbrella tops. Mine are naked almonds rife with milk spots.
I think of the dust that makes its way into the ball, the dead skin
of my hands. I make small nubs of dough. Sesame paste
sticks to the crevices of my mouth, sickly sweet,
and I am always surprised to see my blackened teeth.
My mother laughs at me for taking forever. Seeing me
at the airport she laughed at how dark I’d gotten.
She suggested taping my eyelids to make a double crease,
told me when I was younger that eating fish makes your eyes bigger,
my mother who doesn’t eat fish. When I am a mother I will also
dry my daughter’s hair at two in the morning when she is limp
from sleeplessness and tears, and I will keep my inglorious self
from her. My mother at my age is unrecognizable in a photograph,
long radish shaped face, gentler than me in a polo shirt,
wet eighties Hong Kong when she was already dating my father.
I think about how I am so easily impressed. How I allowed myself
to give for a boy who only ever looked at me once,
when I was unprepared and naked and a smaller version
of myself. She does not know I know of the years my father
was fucking white girls in a place far away from her,
my mother whom I envy and know because I too know how
to be unwanted and androgynous, wordless in the way I am now,
in the way she goes on laughing. The ginger tumbles in the pot.
My mother pours her dumplings into it and they bubble
like bodies that have never belonged to us.