Sudden claps of monsoon
thunder mute the food hall’s
neon buzz, a congee rain
falls thick and tacky through
the gaps between the levels.
From New Bridge Road,
old Zhìxin burrows through
the sheltering shoppers,
he stops at Lok-Lok Tao Foo
for a cheap feed and a cigarette.
Taking the prize seat by
the rails and overlooking the lawns,
he vents a yawn and opens up
his paper. ‘Shandong farmers
water their fields with hoses,’
he reads aloud; news from home,
he scans the page for names of towns
that as a boy, he’d known; he stares
at paragraphs, skipping characters unremembered,
unlearned. A keen breeze flicks the downpour
at his dusty sandalled feet, soaking,
quenching the dry cracks in his skin.
He recalls the distant rains of Shandong past,
followed by the rich mud scent of Spring.
(First published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 2011.)