My grandma hands me a jade pendant
and there I sit, waiting for wrinkled hands to knit together like mating butterflies, waiting for fingers to find flesh buried behind cosmos of stygian hair and unclip gilded plastic. As the final knot was set, she stares back in silence. Through our reflection I could almost hear my mother’s Mandarin tongue— a little tiger jade for a lucky boy wash away all sins as if she believed jade could wash teeth stained brown from jasmine tea, hide smells of father’s rice liquor, or stop golden rings from concealing into my skin. I think back to summers in Beijing and Xi’an, where odors of ginseng and lotus roots drift idly through street corners. Afar, girls capering in gentle cadence, wrists bearing their mother’s jade bangles and ears flashing golden earrings. I hated those girls. Some nights, as darkness trims the stain of dusk, I lie awake, body on voyage, wondering how a jade pendant could teach me to love when I know so little. Should I have tears in my eyes when I see that my mother has died? Now I envy those girls, their mothers, and their pride.
Ray Zhang attends Troy High School; Zhang won the first place in the Charles Crupi Memorial Poetry Contest for Michigan High School students. For more information on the contest, please visit the Albion College English Department website.