Gillian Sze: A Poem

"Oriental Market" by sjtoh

Gillian Sze

While you are writing to me about the first snow, I am in a van bumping along the backbone of Malaysia, stopping only at roadside stands to buy durian, soursop, dragon fruit. In my mother’s language, if one does not have a taste for a food, one does not know it, as in to comprehend, or have the knowledge of how to eat. Eating has become a test of intimacy, to gauge the extent a mouth can work around a seed. In the evenings, after dinner, we eat fruits, and with each newly encountered fruit, my family watches, waits for my reaction. At first, the spikes of the rambutans warned me not to touch, but I did, and they slackened beneath my fingers, turned lissom like new grass. And dragon fruit, chemical-pink, shone with tiny black seeds. But a brailled slice tasted subtle as melon, as if its flavour dimmed at the close of my lips. So while you are writing to me about snow, I am driving to Bahau, past streaming fields of pitaya cacti. Through the window, I imagine the palette of your November washing the landscape monochrome. You ask when I will return, if I am ever coming back. When I do, I will bring with me and show you the persuasion of pulasans. The maybeness of roseapples.

Gillian Sze is the author of three poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014), shortlisted for the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Originally from Winnipeg, Gillian now lives in Montreal where she writes and teaches.