The dead piled up, thick, fragrant, on the fire escape. My mother ordered me again, and again, to sweep it clean. All that blooms must fall. I learned this not from the Dao, but from high school biology. Oh, the contradictions of having a broom and not a dustpan! I swept the leaves down, down through the iron grille and let the dead rain over the Wong family’s patio. And it was Achilles Wong who completed the task. We called her: The one-who-cleared-away-another-family’s-autumn. She blossomed, tall, benevolent, notwithstanding.
From The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty (Milkweed Editions, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Marilyn Chin. Used with the permission of the author.