top of page

Binded By the Tongue

Binded By the Tongue
a poem by Feileen Li

Spindly fingers curl around soft cotton,

a red tablecloth, a cascade of silk.

Fingers brush over a tiger painted onto paper

with eyes fierce and slitted.

Thin and thick lines make up Baba’s zodiac,

a stark red against faded white.

She breathes in,

A waterfall of smells and

the pork blood melts,

like snow against her tongue.

The oolong in her hands

is warm like sun soaked grass.

Bitter with tea leaves stuck to glass.

Noises slither in her ears,

the harsh sharpness of

Mandarin tumbles off her mouth,

Jiejie, water please.”

The waitress nods, raven hair swaying.

The word sister trailing at her heels.

An unfamiliar hand,

calloused and rough with age,

pours liquid gold into her cup.

Ebony eyes flit to ebony eyes.

Ah, it’s Baba’s friend,

Xie xie shu shu,

She says, thanking this uncle

she’s never met.

An unfamiliar hand

ruffles midnight locks.

Ebony eyes flit to ebony eyes,

Baba’s friend.

Hao ke ai, the lady murmurs,

Ah Xie xie a-yi.

She says, thanking this aunty

she’s never met.

This room of strangers

glows the color of sun soaked leaves

and bittersweet teas.

Tacky red and gold lanterns

dangle from the sky as

spindly fingers curl around soft cotton.

Jie Jie, Shu Shu, A yi

Sister, Uncle, Aunty.

Words to connect,

to create

a bond.

Bloodless and shapeless,

binded by the tongue

of a land thousands of miles away.

Cover Photo Source:

bottom of page