Where the Weight Catches

In the Fat Giraffe shop

you find a wooden bucket

labelled South China, Antique

and you want to laugh: £45

for a night-soil bucket! But

you hook a finger into the notch

in the handle where the weight

catches, add a similar bucket,

hang them from either end of a split bamboo pole…

 

… for you know the man

whose bucket this is:

how he shrugs the pole

round the back of his neck

when one shoulder aches.

You know the broad, oiled douli

he wears against sun and rain,

the notch in his front tooth

where he cracks sunflower seeds.

At bedtime, you know

he washed his face and feet

in separate bowls, drying them

on the wrung-out washcloths.

In the morning, how his bristly

pig lumbers to the door

for breakfast. You’ve tasted

his oranges, eaten his rice, slept

behind the mosquitoed curtains

of his bed.

 

Set down his bucket

in the Fat Giraffe shop, the slosh

of disturbed memory lapping back

to a still round mirror. The ache

in your shoulder is the weight

of what’s lost.

Claire Lynn taught English with VSO in China from 1988-90.  She now lives in Hexham, Northumberland and teaches English and Creative Writing around the county.  Her poems have been published in the Bridport Prize anthology (1999),  the Ver Prize anthology (2017), Virago anthology The Nerve, The Independent newspaper, and various magazines including Smiths Knoll, Writing Women, Other Poetry and Dream Catcher.  Her reviews of Chinese literature have appeared in London Magazine.  “Where the Weight Catches” was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2017.

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