At the Gate

In memory of love without barriers and barriers that reveal love


At the Gate

Together, inside our walled garden, by the red gate.
December in Taipei, Taiwan.  Mimosa, courtyards, and luggage.
The air is always warm.  The sunset casts bronze light and black shadows.
My grandmother and I stand close, but talk of parting.

She is fifty and steps gingerly, on half-bound feet.
I am seven and skip along, braids bound by red string.  
I am leaving for America soon,
to reunite with my father there.

I have no choice but to go. 
Am already aching for my return—
to see her wrinkled face again,
and hold her vein-filled hands in mine.

“Grandma, it will be a long time before my return.
You may die, before I can come back.”
“Don’t worry.  Street vendors often come, selling ‘Long Life Pills’. 
I will live to a hundred and wait here for you.”

“That’s good.  Remember to buy them. 
It will take me a long time to grow up. 
I promise I will come back to you.
Don’t forget me.  I will always remember you.”

At the last moment, I refuse to get on the plane. 
I wriggle away and run towards her.
“Grandma!  Grandma! Help me!”  I call.
I am not going!  This is my choice!

My mother pulls me back to the plane,
and I resist with all my strength. 
She slaps me hard. 
The pain freezes me forever.

Grandmother looks on, unblinking,
standing behind a barrier made of rope.
Her face and arms hang down.
Tears and tares at the gate.

Alice W. Lee