The Hong Lim Suite: Homeland

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.)