Her new family has her dowry—her chickens have become his chickens. Clipped wings fly the short distance to nowhere. Her future husband has returned to the village. His parents had sent a message to the university: Come home quickly. There is an emergency. It took several days to make the journey and he arrived weary, expecting an ailing father. Instead, a wedding ceremony with him as the man of honor, and her, sitting on the bed, dressed and waiting, vision obscured. She tries to imagine what he looks like. When he lifts the heavy red veil from her face, she sees kind eyes. She lies with him that night, spreads her legs and consecrates the marital bed. The next morning, she is alone. Her new husband has returned to school in Shanghai, a city she has only heard of. Her husband is an educated man, she cannot read or write. He is Jīdūjiào—a Christian. No one in the village understands this, not even his own parents. She tends the graves of his ancestors, looks after his mother and father as if they were her own. Nine months later, a girl is born, company for a short time—the baby dies an infant. Still he does not return. All that remains is a handful of chickens, the rest slaughtered for her wedding banquet.
“Courtyard” by Darien Hsu Gee from Other Small Histories, published by the Poetry Society of America.
Copyright © 2020 by Darien Hsu Gee.
Reprinted with permission of publisher.
Darien Hsu Gee is the author of five novels published by Penguin Random House that have been translated into eleven languages. She won the 2019 Poetry Society of America’s Chapbook Fellowship award for Other Small Histories and the 2015 Hawai‘i Book Publishers’ Ka Palapala Poʻokela Award of Excellence for Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir. She is the recipient of a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant and a Vermont Studio Center fellowship. Gee holds a B.A. from Rice University and an M.F.A. from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She lives with her family on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. www.dariengee.com
"Darien Hsu Gee’s Other Small Histories is a lush and lyrical chronicle of a walking back, a mesmerizing merge of research, vision and invention that gradually crafts a story of the women in her matriarchal line. She does so in a series of lean prose poetry vignettes that unreel like fragments of cinema, beautifully sparse revelations that make the reader a party to her process of discovery."