Poems by Siyun Fang
Mother Selling Her Hair
The man who buys hair says the texture and condition of the hair are not good— he could pay two-hundred Yuan at most. Mother is not happy with that, bargaining with him on the price. She wants one hundred more, which in total, would be my monthly cost of living when I was in high school.
As her daughter, I totally understand that mother’s hair doesn’t qualify because she washes her hair only once a month to save on shampoo. If you are a woman who lives in the city, you will never understand my mother. You can never imagine how “dirty” a peasant woman can be, in order to save and earn money. The long, black hair means nothing about beauty to a mother who lives in the countryside. It’s just a resource— a source of income. It’s like a fertile river, bringing profit and income to a continuously destitute family.
Mother asks the man to cut her hair shorter. The shorter the hair left, the longer the portion she has to sell, the more she will be compensated. The man handles the scissor deftly, cutting off, in one swift move, the hair she has kept for several years. Mother suddenly looks like a man, which in fact, is another role that she has been playing— she once was also my father, when he was away from home, doing temporary work.
By next spring, mother’s hair will have grown out again. By next spring, she can sell it again. Her hair is just like Chinese chives, one batch after another springing up. Mother’s body is the soil in my homeland; from which we keep deriving nourishment, until she becomes the same as her mother turning into a part of the land, our hometown.
In the evening at dinner time,
I go out and call my father, who is rambling in the woods.
The night permeates little by little,
the darkness spreads like ink on rice paper.
Every time I call, the night is pushed away a little bit;
when I stop calling, the night gathers again and crowds round.
My voice reverberates in the woods for a long time,
rippling in the wind.
Again, father’s response
makes the night seem brighter.
Siyun Fang is a poet and translator interested in medieval lit and gender theory, whose poems have appeared in Rigorous, Tule Review, and among other journals and magazines.