Grandpa Visits Me in the Summer

by Chang Quan Yang
My grandpa who eats steamed sweet potatoes on foothills textured in green rice patties
dreamt up a tall brick house with a black iron gate
barbwires sprung around the tips of the entrance to keep out thieves
wonders how long he can keep fibbing to my mother—
their rotten hut at the end of the massive foothill, not fleeting
monsoons come early, swells the ground till it gave
a landslide takes four people and a child
that day, red stars hung above Tiananmen square gates 
ground bones came in bags, white cement hauled by green skin trucks
My grandpa who loves sweet potatoes constructs an ivory wall. 
after the revolution, the sun peeks out in montages
peering through the smoke
gunpowder stuck to the tank tire roads 
black heads roll off yellow tar dirt into a pit
My grandpa gives his best friend five hundred dollars— 
visas for my mother and grandma, 
His best friend disappears,
writes my grandpa
an apology and, leaves him a large sack of uncooked sweet potatoes
light tan, severs in half and plops down on the lumpy cutting board,
dusty orange inners, grandpa tosses them in the boiling water
and later, while gnawing down, 
he pretends they are oranges for once
My grandpa who eats sweet potatoes is sick of them.
Grandpa, who’s kneeling on our dried front yard with a worn out copper pail
waters the salty earth slowly until it sprouts sugar canes
chops one down, breaks it in half, the sun beats
peering through palm leaves
a viridescent river of silk and pale honey
my small three year arms grab a handful 
sliced by grandpa into pieces neatly placed
in a blue flowered ceramic bowl
years later, I chop one down and chew until
English becomes a second language again 
and in my twenties, I grab a handful
sliced by mom into pieces, placed in a weaved basket
made of reinforced bamboo
I put it in front of my grandpa’s grave
in Fujian on the foggy mountainside
of a small willow town on the edge of the South
China coast covered in plastic smog,
I eat sweet potatoes with my grandpa facing outward
toward a kneeing sun,
a red hot summer in the city where my fingers
dig into sugar cane bark.
Waiting for my friends,
eating oranges from California.