Rain in My Childhood

by Changxin Fang
 
Rain in my childhood fell, a swath of gray, 
drowning everything in its dusty silk. 
The river in Shanghai is black, carving its way 
to the stony sea, opaque as asphalt; we walk 
gingerly around the puddles. Each day: 
one bowl of rice, teacups of moist clay and milk.   
Mother tells me this is the monsoon, 
how yearly, heaven washes its clothes in June.  

Our poverty was like the rain.  
Like my father in the years of his exile, 
eating grass and leather belts; the train  
rushes him to the desert province, his prison, while
my mother waits before the sewing machine,  
constant as the moon, thin and pale.
I have forgotten how to speak Chinese, my voice
lost among new consonants, new choices.     

It's been raining so long the winter 
streets have been swept with wet nights;  
I think the rain is waiting for me to remember 
the way chalk dust floated in a column of light 
in an empty classroom one September 
where I was left alone, my father late. 
Little girl, when did you last hear yourself say 
I belong here? When did you begin to run away?  

 2006 by Changxin Fang. All rights reserved.

Changxin Fang is getting a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry Writing at the Creative Writing program at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. She graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts and is originally from Shanghai, China.