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Offering

Fiona Tinwei Lam
From:  Enter the Chrysanthemum. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009


Kneeling by his grave, I offer my father
a cup of tea, the way he'd wanted it
before he died. I was eleven
when the rented wheelchair came.
I ploughed long furrows
into the carpets. He was home
after months in hospital.

Ringed by family, he asked for lemon tea—
a bit of sugar, not too hot.
Assigned the task, I went to the kitchen,
filled a mug with lukewarm water
squeezed a tea bag against the side
to tint the water, a splash
of lemon from an ancient bottle.
Sugar not enough. A precarious march
back to his bedside.

He sipped it and winced.
Good he said, though it wasn't.
Fell back to the pillow.

Christmas eve, he was wheeled out
for company. My mother, a red—eyed bullet
through the thrumming house.
Amid the clink of teacups,
he lay on the couch, filmed
with sweat from the toll
of being alive.

Quiet and cool in my room, I sat
alone with a box of Swiss chocolate,
miniatures in neat white cubicles.
The waxy sweetness
of the milk and white bars,
a prim smothering. The nuts
were grit on my teeth and tongue.
Only the bitter one tasted
of something I could have felt.

Today, at last, I've done it right.
A good pour of amber honey,
fresh lemon, boiling water, loose leaves—
tea brewed hot and strong.
Drink, my father, as I drink to you
this striving of sun, sky, earth and flesh
held within these porcelain cups.



Fiona Tinwei Lam's works copyright © to the author.


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