Moon Cake by Cathy Guo

My mother had beautiful hands. Poised
with a brush and a palette of color,
she showed me the movement of landscape
and its words: da hai, for the sea she never
saw in childhood,
sha mo, for the desert sand of Lanzhou
in her mouth,
cao ping, for the great plains in which hundreds of
Tibetan girls sang with skirts
made from jasmine petals and rain
that was on the verge of hail.

My mother had beautiful hands.
She coiled them around the moon cakes
when our lunar calendar turned, holding mine
gently as she traced the outline of a
sky. Moon cakes are a symbol, a
cure for loneliness, for homesick. We see
the same moon here and there, we have the
same moon inside us. I was then too young
to understand tradition or void.

My mother had beautiful hands.
Time would not be as merciless.
My mother slowly developed an ache
from long hours at the fabric
factory, and the year I turned twelve
she began to wear gloves.

My mother had beautiful hands.
With them she hid the outline of
a crescendo, quiet breakage like a
stone wrapped secretly in silk.
The chasm between us was one
of mistranslation.
Moon cake, moon cake.

How the constellation
inside me trembles even now,
remembering.