The dragon is in the street dancing beneath windowspasted with colored squares, past the man
who leans into the phone booth’s red pagoda, pastcrates of doves and roosters veileduntil dawn. Fireworks complicate the streetswith sulphur as people exchange gold
and silver foil, money to appease ghostswho linger, needy even in death. I amalmost invisible. Hands could pass through meeffortlessly. This is how it is
to be so alien that my name falls from me, growsuntranslatable as the shop signs,the odors of ginseng and black fungus that idlein the stairwell, the corridor where
the doors are blue months ajar. Handsgesture in the smoke, the partial moonof a face. For hours the soft numericclick of mah-jongg tiles drifts
down the hallway where languid Mai trailsher musk of sex and narcotics. There is no grief in this, only the old yearconsuming itself, the door knob blazing
in my hand beneath the lightbulb’s electric jewel. Between voices and fireworkswind works bricks to dust—hush, hush—no language I want to learn. I can touch
the sill worn by hands I’ll never knowin this room with its low tablewhere I brew chrysanthemum tea. The signfor Jade Palace sheds green corollas
on the floor. It’s dangerous to stand herein the chastening glow, darkeningmy eyes in the mirror with the gulf of the restof my life widening away from me, waiting
for the man I married to pass beneaththe sign of the building, to climbthe five flights and say his Chinese name for me. He’ll rise up out of the puzzling streets
where men pass bottles of rice liquor, wherethe new year is liquor, the black bottlethe whole district is waiting for, likesome benevolent arrest—the moment
when men and women turn to each other and dissolveeach bad bet, every sly mischance,the dalliance of hands. They turn in lamplightthe way I turn now. Wai Min is in the doorway.
He brings fish. He brings lotus root. He brings me ghost money.