The Gift

My nephew doesn’t know the strokes of his Chinese name.
He doesn’t know the beginning characters
like person, the first part falling from left to right
forming the torso and leg, the second finishing
the body. He doesn’t imagine the tiny marks
on either side as hands holding flames to make fire,
the hooks on moon as points of a slender crescent.

It is not his mother tongue, only the tongue
of his grandparents. To him, a box
doesn’t create the contours of country,
eight lucky strokes and a mouth neatly packed inside.
It is not my first tongue either.

I forget, sometimes, that mouth is in our surname,
that my brother and I share a mountain peak.
I am woman, and he is man. Together
we make the word for good.
My father is a poet in his first language.

I give my nephew the Boggle Junior from my childhood,
the cards with simple illustrations,
words spelled out three or four letters across.
Box! B-O-X! When my father asks him
what a box is, he says,
It’s something you use
to carry something else inside it.


Angela Siew is a multilingual poet and teacher. She received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College. Angela is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has work published or forthcoming in The Merrimack Review, Crab Orchard Review and Art New England.