Her seat has been empty for a year.
Still we sit
together. Not together. Around the table
we eat the tasteless water chestnut cakes
which I insist ordering.
I lie that the plum rain of China in early January
nourishes the jade-like crunchy corms –
the best time to savour this New Year’s dish.
But I am silenced
by the huge heap of sliced cakes that remain
almost untouched by everyone here
and by my father’s empirical science of how autumn, not winter,
is the harvesting season.
But I can’t refrain from lingering on
the past winters when my mother, with her gnarled veiny hands,
insisted on making and filling my tiny childhood plate full with
her – not my – favourite water chestnut cakes.
She never knew that when I said I loved her cakes, I loved
her smile at the sight of me eating, savouring, appreciating her cake –
That sight gave her bland, unrecognized life the sweetest touch she’d ever known
in our home where water chestnuts never grew, cracked and bloomed
through the floors, walls, ceilings and
outside the window.
She never knew
that the sweetness I tasted was not from the cake
but her heart.
that if I listened hard enough I would hear the crunch of water chestnuts
from the empty chair next to me
where she would be sitting and smiling as usual
as if New Year never came,
and that I could tell her honestly
the blissful flavour she thought I liked
was never there
and would never be there again.
Zabrina Lo is an undergraduate reading English Literature and Film Studies. She loves having her lectures on savannas, in the sun and pretty much anywhere but the classroom. She is one of the founding co-editors of EDGE. “The Lie” is the First Prize Winner of the English Poetry Contest 2015. [Read other poems from the 2015 contest.]