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One Daughter is Worth Ten Sons

Back to 1951

My father is forgetting my face as he lies dying
in the company of parrots in bright eye shadow and lips
like Christmas.
On a battery of wings, surrounded by a halo of flies,
he is lifted back to 1951, seventeen and hiding in the mountains,
living off bitter roots and small snakes,
giving the Red Army the finger.

He stayed there long after soldiers went back to their farm
and factory lives
while I tried to fit inside his tin can of a heart:

thou shalt not smoke
thou shalt not skip breakfast
thou shalt not end up an old maid...

Did Confucius say headstrong daughters must assume
the venerable position?

Do it anyway: kowtow and contemplate remains of flesh and bone
melting into silt and soil.