Rena Su

observations of longing

last winter, my grandfather died overseas
though he was fine a week ago. i saw him 
as a block of pixels in an Apple Inc. frame
and the next thing i knew my aunt had framed
his image onto gray cement in Shaanxi.

the last thing i told him was to stay healthy
via WeChat. i don’t know if he heard me.

i don’t remember the last thing he told me.

i haven’t visited in three years.
he showed me his grave outside his countryside 
home, already engraved. he saved up seven months
of wages, chose a patch of land where he would lie
beside my grandmother. 

i tell people that i grew up in the cities not the suburbs
except i live in the stereotype of a residential area
with nuclear families and white people with their dogs.
my grandparents live in dad’s hometown; why leave
a place where there are
peach trees & wild grass & full stars &
oil lamps & old men with six fingers &
torn-down roofing & forgotten strays
& wise old ladies who remember dad’s
name for decades & kids who yearn for
Canadian chocolate & kids who yearn
to relocate to the city & ghost stories &
a schoolroom with paper windows (?)

my aunt recorded her cries on video call
we don’t have a father anymore. 
we don’t have a father anymore.
wǒ men méi yǒu bà le

grandmother still lives in the same village
grandfather is still buried in the same village
dad studied hungrily under kerosene to stay
somewhere away from that place. yet he tells
me stories of that place as an aching memory

Rena Su is a poet from Canada and the author of the chapbook Preparing Dinosaurs for Mass Extinction (ZED Press, 2021). She was born in 2004.