Alice M. Sun-Cua Oct 10, 2008 16:01:56 GMT 2
Post by thepoetslizard on Oct 10, 2008 16:01:56 GMT 2
Alice Theresa Sun-Cua
Alice M. Sun-Cua is a physician, poet, and Tai Chi practitioner. She is currently working on a translation of Jaime Gil de Biedma’s El Persona del Verbo, a collection of Spanish poems, into English.
"Crossing the Street with Mother"
Saying good bye to her one weekend
I embraced her eighty-two year old lightness
and was astonished to feel flesh and bone
delicate as her thin cotton dresses.
Yet every night over the phone she regales me
of her forays into the nearby shopping malls,
her encounters with shopkeepers in Kalentong,
pickpockets seated across her in jeepneys.
I still fear her peremptory voice, the rattan rod
she wields, even as she holds on to me tightly
as we cross Shaw Boulevard, her walking pace
as measured as these roles we persistently play.
She cooks her different ways of chicken---
adobo, jamonado, stuffed with lemon grass,
steamed. Every Friday she asks me, how do you
like the chicken cooked? I tell her not to strain herself.
We take her out to Sunday lunch, and she
hardly eats. She wants nothing of this eating out
when she can cook better, and yet I see how she goes
about the kitchen now, handling cleaver and knives.
These days when I see her white hair, bright eyes
(both lenses new, post-cataract surgery), I let out
a little hope that she might have learned to see me,
no longer the girl who answered “no” to her every request.
And because crossing this street is a task
she dreads, I hook an arm around her waist, and she
reaches out to catch my hand. We are not in a hurry.
The other side of the road does not look any nearer,
so we can walk like this longer, longer than
she can hold me, as I inhale the scent of her hair,
molding fragility closer; her rebukes silenced,
and my own heart hushed.
Originally published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. 11 May 2008.
"Lemon Meringue Pie"
We assemble pie pan, bowls,
measuring cups, aluminum sifter,
spoons, spatulas ---a mise en scène
she began forty-eight years ago.
Graham crackers are crushed
accretions of long silences
we tamp into smoothness
lining this Teflon pan.
Knobby hands scrape lemon peel
for zest. When had her joints
become so large, the fingers
As the crust bakes I put flour,
butter, sugar, eggs, juice and zest
into the blender. Above the din
she exclaims how different it was
during her time, when custards
were mixed by hand.
Smoother curd, she insists,
as Oster blades cut though
sweet tartness, or tart sweetness
whichever is predominant today,
fear and willfulness mingling,
two women in so many ways similar,
yet loathe to see their own selves
in the other.
Giving in to her wishes I whisk
egg whites for meringue with a fork,
the bantering between us light,
soft peaks rising. Teaspoon
by slow teaspoon she adds
sugar, poking a finger into the bowl
and puts frosting into her mouth
and chin. We laugh aloud,
mirth reaching out across
this expanse liberally strewn
The room explodes with smells
of baking pie. In the oven,
perfect swirls turn golden brown.
Originally published in the Philippine Free Press Magazine. 23 November 2003.
"Cloud Hands in Caleruega"
It should be a torso movement,
the Tai Chi master said,
never only the hands.
I raise one arm, elbow gently flexed,
open palm before my eyes,
while the other arm comes down
in a gentle arc of shaping the wind.
Last night’s storm dampens
bare soles, the smell of moist earth
mingling with wood smoke,
the air quiet but for birdsong.
Turning slowly to the right
my eyes catch low clouds
settling halfway down the mountains,
slopes gentled by morning sun.
Look at Infinity and be aware of the Now.
Right, then left; up,
and down; the mountain fog
seems to echo my movements:
Who is following whom?
The answer lies in the Nothing.
It is enough to be here,
be one with the mists,
the pearl-gray skies;
to move and yet