[the poetry billboard] - 'Grandfather' by Meijin Jaclyn Lim

Meijin Jaclyn Lim

They told me during your wake that you placed
Baby me on your wrinkling palm, my foot soles
On your fingers, and jolted me up into the air.
But I only remember how you sat onto my
Pink plastic toy rice cooker and broke it into pieces.

When I was three, you sent me to nursery school
Everyday on your black bicycle, black wheels. I told you then
'I will drive you around when I grow up.'
You rejoiced and waited. But, I am
Two years late of a driving license. My fault this time.

Some days you sat beneath the Taoist altar
Which touches the ceiling, and folded
Paper cranes from flimsy lunar calendar paper.
On rainy days, you folded paper boats.
And these we fought over for,

Carried them gingerly to the flooded longkangs,
Set them onto the choppy waters, and then
Chased them all the way to the end of
The stretch of the terraced houses, while
You sat inside. Alone.

We moved away from these backyards
Lined with wind-slapped clothes when
I was five, into sky touching housing board flats.
Near school, near the buses, near everything
Except you, and my ah-ma.

Your avocado-smeared legs chained you always
To the sofa seat next to the phone. And
When we rattled the metal grille gate in an
Occasional visit, you hobbled with difficulty
To let us in.

I remember the Lunar New Years, where
You invariably pressed 40-dollar angbaos into
My palm with the Confucian-like words
'Study Hard'. I remember how on your birthdays,
You were the happiest.

You wore always your gray suit, looking sombre
Beside Ah-ma's flowery costumes and white hair
Perm-pomp with air. But you sat smiling,
Not at the televised World Cup soccer match,
But at your grandchildren cheering in unison.

The first time I saw you with your walking stick
Was at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront.
Suddenly agile, you bustled around
With the happiness of your grandson's wedding.
That was the last time I saw you.

No more, no more.
No more of you muttering our names
As you rise and get the keys which
Open to your life.