tomb-sweeping day, glasgow, 2020

with thoughts of my 婆婆 and 公公 

i tried to imagine it once – what it would be like – living

over half your life not fluent in the local language

how much more intelligent you would have to become

at things like social cues and body language

at reading the expressions on faces more times correctly

than incorrectly – if you failed then the consequences could be


i always thought i had a slick imagination for that sort of thing

even as a kid i would flick through the world atlas looking up far away places

wondering what languages they would speak 

what food they would eat

if there would be anybody there who looked like me


and meanwhile down the road at the spring bamboo they would sit

together in silence at the exact same time each and every day

thinking inconsequential thoughts but doing so in their own language

and there would be no need for any words between them

because she knew that he had already put the right change in the till

and he knew that she had already twisted the dial on the fryer

from the circle diagram to the one-line diagram

and they both knew that in a few moments time they would both stand up

walk to the front door and flip the sign

from the red side reading closed

to the blue side reading open


Sean Wai Keung