brook house 1

By Alicia Khoo

For the first time my grandfather
walks slower than grandma;

they’ve been through WWII,
got to Singapore on boats and bicycles,

survived the Japanese Occupation
that forever changed our last name,

(or first name, in our culture)
and now we’re puttering at the mall

this ex-British colony of immigrants
I left behind a decade ago.

They say I used to be a little monkey
jumping around,

hiding from the thin rattan cane they
would wave in my face.

Heck, most times I threw it
out the window or hid it in couches,

and more magically reappeared.
I prattle in rusty Teochew,

the clan’s dialect (first language I ever learnt);
Perhaps I’m too American now, Australian,

European

Have some more asparagus,
I try to pick up thin green spears with chopsticks,
while he declares solemnly

Can’t, I have no teeth.

There’s no fortune cookie in the aftermath,
(that’s a purely American concept)

If there had been one, mine would probably say:

Little flower got on plane aching for freedom
but come back for many sunshine.
Learn Chinese.

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