My grandmother kneaded at a powdery ball of
Dough until it turned translucent and heavy under
The kitchen lights, settling onto the table like the
White insides of a mussel, the raw pear body of it
Folded in cabbages to steam, a Lunar New Year
Of baby fat, hanging ducks, legends of lotus feet
Unwrapped and blunted under a plum harvest moon.
My grandma cradled the dough in the warm space
Between her palm and her hip, and I remembered
That she, at my age, was much softer than I am now.
Her face, a blotch of flushed dimples and cheeks in
Old photos, almost unrecognizable: blurred mouth
Swimming, hair pulled back sexless. Perhaps this
Means that she too was foolish once before, gaze not
Yet a surrender. But still, she was a good daughter,
Good really meaning a soft daughter, someone who
Had forgotten that to be vulgar means to be unafraid.
Days beyond just yesterday, she was a new mother,
Unprepared and still too childish to give for a baby
In blind faith. Today, it is different. She teaches me
To make steamed buns, glutinous dumplings of a land
Where girls used to leave their homes like smog, the
Traditions of New Year bounded by yellow clay, their
Bodies, red veils, a ringing procession. But today, my
Grandmother laughs easily at the watery nubs of flour
In between my fists, tells me how dumplings used to
Be the only monument of a woman’s creation. But
Today, these cakes are our heritage reborn, and in it,
We are unburied, one by one: vulgar daughters, old
Mothers, and hope for the New Year.