Poetry Archive

Dreaming of Rice

Photo by Sandy Zebua on Unsplash

            Pearly grains shine
in my grandmother’s young hands
and in the dark bowl she holds. As she swirls
the rice with water, the grains sing
against lacquer. The curl of starch rises
to the surface, a silken veil.
            As she rinses the rice,
my grandmother sings of floating
to the moon. She reaches
into the milky haze, pulling up
the stars.
            Each day she bends
in the heat, combing a paddy field.
The child strapped to her back gazes
up into mountain fog. His eyes,
the color of clouded water.
            At night as she sleeps,
my grandmother’s hands continue
their work, stroking the rippled surface
of tatami mats, tending
phantom stalks.
            Grandmother, I see
you, the woman bending, shining
in the fields. From the pictures
you gaze into me, your slight body
framing distant mountains.
            My little one doesn’t know
your name. He hasn’t watched
a woman wash rice, parting
the white shroud. He eats dinners
of roasted chicken and potatoes,
lives in a house without the music
of a lacquer bowl.
            Forgive me, Grandmother.
I have gathered your kimonos,
your pictures into a closet box. In my dreams,
you waver over me, the moon returning
to the paddy waters.
            With cool hands you
moisten my lips, teaching me
a mountain song—of the stalk
bending, gleaming long after its grains
have been scattered.

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Filed under: Poetry Archive


Sayuri Ayers is a native of Columbus, Ohio. The daughter of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, her work explores identity, motherhood, and mental health. Her prose and poetry appear in The Account, Entropy, SWWIM, Hobart, The Pinch, and other literary journals. She is the author of two chapbooks: Radish Legs, Duck Feet (Green Bottle Press) and Mother/Wound (forthcoming from Full/Crescent Press.) Sayuri is a Kundiman Fellow and VCCA Resident. In 2020, she was awarded the Ohio Arts Council's Individual Excellence Award in creative writing. You can find her at sayuriayers.com.