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WILLOW WARE

A river — light blue as a stream of milk —
flows among the dark blue willows
on my mother's plates, meanders beneath
the little blue bridge on which stands a man
in a dark blue gown. This pattern
is all about love, my mother tells us,
about a Chinese boy in love with a Chinese girl,
but he cannot cross the bridge to his beloved
because the girl's father stands in his way.
Thus, the willows weep.

As if to help, we pile on food —
mashed potatoes, gravy, string beans, pork chops.
More. Yes, more helpings to cover the sadness.

This, too is a pattern:
we say grace above the food and it
becomes a way of showing love:
"Mmm," says my father. "Heaven
in your mouth. Love this.
Eat. You're upsetting your mother."
Perhaps the Chinese girl did not clean her plate.

So we eat our way back to the sadness,
to the lovers bereft of each other
because of the man on the bridge
who is always there.
And someday, after we've eaten the love
on our plates, we'll eat the sadness, too:
the weeping blue willows, the milky-blue river,
the blue blue lovers, the nasty blue father.



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