on the death of poh-poh

Chinese shrine with jossticks
Chinese shrine

(Loh Ching Mui, died 5/2/1998, 10.45pm)

they told me that poh-poh died

she had been needing hand to foot attention

these past twenty four months

serviced by a young Indonesian woman

who spoke no Chinese, poh-poh no Malay

But she had lost her speaking voice then

she who had mumbled secret prayers for this grandchild

on first day of primary school the jossticks wending smoke to whatever god or ancestor

she who went to the temple to divine my future

and entreated the goddess Kuanyin for mercy

on  a sick child stricken with polio

she with whom was shared a four poster bed

with mosquito net

and grandad

to listen to the antics of the monkey king

and many, many of those melodramatic Chinese tales of love

or kungfu stories spun out on the redifusion in Menglembu

because the child could not run out to play.

she with whom was cracked the melon seeds carefully with teeth

watching the Cantonese operas on the local makeshift temple stages

eating the Buddhist vegetarian noodles.

She is here no more

too many airmiles away

this errant grandchild mourns the passing of her maternal grandmother

without the jossticks

with an alien god

in a different culture, with a foreign tongue

she who passes to the other shore

may she rest in peace.