[T]hey are burning Chen Feng’s clothing
and belongings like a pile of autumn leaves
in the apartment complex, a ring of salt
marking a circle. Last night, after he died,
the fireworks kept popping, warning
his ghost off: you don’t live here
anymore, they shouted with each bang.
Poor old Chen, nowhere else to go but up
or down, heaven or hell, whichever way
you look at it, perhaps the vast sucking
void, to float around the stars. There was
no way to sleep, you see, living or dead—
monks were summoned, mirrors came out,
white cloth hung on doors, joss wafting thick.
He had the respect of age going for him,
had made it through Hard Fucking Times.
I liked Chen, a friendly neighborhood guy,
collecting bottles and cans for cash, doing
his part in the world, and I wanted to go
to the funeral, even though his great
grandson makes fun of me, points, calls me
laowai, outsider, all the time with a sneer.
But that’s no big deal, I am an outsider,
and the little shit calls it like he sees it.
The cannon truck and flower wreaths arrive
for the procession, great grandson in his blue
cap, part of the blood circle, the sons-in-law
in white caps, women in black caps. I watch
the coffin being nailed shut, ill luck, for sure,
and then the wailing begins, but not too much,
as he wasn’t too rich, and they carry Chen off,
to the hole awaiting him on Quiet Mountain.
He’ll be back in seven days, so they say—
a quick visit, a spot check. They sprinkle
powder at the doorways, to detect footprints;
outsider footprints, a very bad omen.
Lauren Tivey currently lives in China, where she works as an English Literature teacher in the American program at a Chinese high school. She received a MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Split Lip Magazine, The Blue Hour, The Camel Saloon, Red Fez, Hobble Creek Review, Deuce Coupe, Blue Lake Review, and Gutter Eloquence, among others. Her chapbook, The Breakdown Atlas & Other Poems, was released in 2011 by Big Table Publishing Co. She lives for poetry, photography, travel, and adventure.