Winter House

My father threw his language overboard,

a bag of kittens, waterlogged mewling:

small hard bodies.


My mother hung on to hers —

Wove the words like lace, an open web

over the window, light caught on the edges.



My daughter is starting to pick at language,

names at dawn – dog, star, mumma –

alone in her crib, learning the edges that will mark

meaning, create borders.


I'm trying to find those words of my mother’s,

the dust settling sound of chien, the sharp edged étoile:

words that become thick, undefined,

pulled from a soft mouthed gueule.



There is distance in words.

Translation a kind of poverty,

a thin house you can winter in,

cupboards arranged so you can never find a mug.


This is all I give you, Abby —

a measure of the distance

between you and your grandparents:

a season,

an ocean

Bibliographical info

Sarah Yi - Mei Tsiang, "Winter House" from Sweet Devilry. Copyright © Sarah Tsiang, 2011. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Press, 2011)

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