I bottle kerosene at a factory, sticking
labels with the firm hands you gave me.
Dad had firm hands before he drank.
He’d wake us up. A staggering shadow.
I woke up and left on Rice Planting Day
when mom cried into a bowl of congee.
When I make congee, I cry to myself.
It’s better when cooled, and served with pickles.
Pickles are cheap like a printed calendar:
the gods, festivals, mandarin Chinese.
Chinese is a weakling in a mega-city.
The future is English, a tall white master.
At school, I was bright, tall, and pale.
I studied stolen novels under the dark.
Dark is the color of small-town China.
I bottle kerosene; I light up your sky.
Weijia Pan is a poet and translator from Shanghai, China. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, from AGNI, Georgia Review, Copper Nickel, Boulevard, and elsewhere. A winner of the Inprint Paul Verlaine Prize in Poetry, he is pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Houston.