Two PoemsJulie Feng
My father grows tomatoes
in a glow of dark soil
next to the warehouse where
for many hours of the sour day
he carries boxes and bitter.
They swell fat with sharp water,
their navels plumping towards
palms, their petioles tender
where the stalk joins
the leaf to the sturdy stem.
Vegetable, like race, is a social construct.
Fruit, like body, is an act of flowering.
My father’s hands touch each
rough meristem, reach against
the globes of smooth acidity.
He bends to lift every one,
thumbs padding green stars.
Name, like flower, is a category of soul.
Hand, like vine, is a way to classify.
My father’s pinnate ribs
arc over the climbing vines.
He plucks orbs at first bloom
of blood, he waits to pull
and break at brush of dusk.
Someone once said this flower is the same
as this other flower. Can it be unsaid?
Someone once named you a name
too watery to taste. How do you begin
to be renamed.
My grandmother was the first
to tell me my first word.
She was there, and though I was too,
it’s not something I can hold.
She said to me, you were a child
of tongue and temper,
and like me, you were meant
to leave and always be leaving.
You were meant to carry
your home on your back
and like the women of our line,
cross waters bearing the weight
of our own marrow.
My grandmother tells me
that to know the true name of a thing
is to have power over it.
All my life, I protect this spine
only to forget the softness
of my belly and throat.
My belly believed itself a host.
My throat has been without
homeland for a thousand years.
What words became bone, only
time will tell. What words became shell,
only home can hold.
And so we hold and we hold and we hold.
Julie Feng is a poet, scholar, communications strategist, and cultural worker. She was a 2022 Jack Straw Writing Fellow. Her work has appeared in Winter Tangerine, Pacifica Literary Review, Wildness, Quaint Magazine, and more.
Originally published in Moss: Volume Eight.