This was written in a bout of nostalgia. Looking at old family albums, and how my relatives were a sea away, but it felt much further and I wondered what time will do to us.
Sets of qipao Twin pigtails Whispered nighttalks Devilish schemes Childish pleasures We were closer than friends Stronger We were soulmate sisters Cousins Closer than blood She was a chen, who’s nana sold noodle I was a sheng, who’s nana sold clothes But then there was also the pings, with their bags of herbs The yans, with their quick wit and wise adages But we were all family We are a household of bifurcating trees But we were bonded closer Our fathers grew up together Our mothers had us together Our nanas and yeyes built the very house Our grandnanas and grand yeyes Were once upon a time siblings Whose love for each other was so great Their children grew up like blood siblings Closer than two twining vines Then their descendants remained in touch Our love compounding, not diluting Imagine a bond that strong A bond through blood that withstood through generations A tree whose roots so deep It weathers the winds of time Bearing fruits for eras to come I wonder a world where i didn’t know My loving, eccentric cousins and family Where my extended cousins and 2nd removed cousins My jabbering uncles and nosy second aunties Whose home-stitched scarfs i’ll miss and bear hugs i’ll never have Whose salty pork dumplings and folklore i’ll miss Whose warm embrace will never offer me strength Whose trees carried them far away, too far away Whose fond voices and faces Were as distant and cold as the whistling tunes of the night Where our love as a family dilutes through passage of time Looking at my siblings Whose eyes crinkle the way i do when smiling Whose secrets I’ve held and jokes i’ve spilled Whose hand i’ve hold on dark nights Whose tiny infant fingers i’ve curled around mine Whose gestures and little habits i know by memory I can’t imagine a world where they grow foreign Where one day we will pass by the subway Our descendants oblivious to one another Cold and alien, strangers to the history that bonded us To the memories and love that created us To the mother tree that connected us I imagine bifurcating trees Whose trees grow windy and gnarled Whose branches diverge into whispery points Whose seeds are carried by wind far away, To start anew in different places One by one Second auntie Big auntie Big uncle Second uncle Little cousin Little sister All fading away like dying stars Our connections frayed apart and severed The universe carrying us to separate ends The seams holding us fraying one by one Our family once whole Scattered Growing out and away, Away from each other But perhaps some day on the same tree Whose great trunks carried generations There will be two girls swinging from its curled, long branches With their pigtails curled just that way Lollipops in hand, inseparable Perhaps then they’ll lock their pinkies together A whispered promise to never let go Perhaps they’ll call themselves soulmate sisters On these bifurcating T R E E S
It was written all in one-go, I was feeling a lot of emotions and it translated into this poem. I haven’t been able to see my grandparents and cousins in years, and even then visits were short and in intervals of years. Hearing my parents talk on the phone, reminiscing about their childhood memories and the close-knit bond, made me see how generation by generation those bonds are fraying through time and fate, and I wonder when this thinning strand of tenuous line will snap, forever severing us, and the sadness of losing that connection.
Cathy Sheng is a sophomore in California. She loves a good thriller, sci-fi book, is a complete Debussy fan and is oftentimes pulling pranks on her brothers left and right. Hope to explore more genres of writing and tap into her more creative side this year through Girls Write Now!