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Spratly and Paracel

By Esther Lin

After learning his appointment was canceled and his senior bus won’t come for another two hours my father calls from his waiting room did you know I told your sister to buy big flags American and Brazilian because China’s been so aggressive about the South China Sea it’s unpopular the neighbors might have thoughts they did it to the Japanese we’ll hang the flags in front of the house American and Brazilian so they’ll know our nation was never China the neighbors might have thoughts your grandfather fought Mao you know and your grandmother and aunt were eating sugarcane on the porch the day the soldiers came to take the house—eating sugarcane! you were never Chinese all of us speak Portuguese except you you were too young to remember anything when we left anyway it’s a good idea to keep renewing your Brazilian passport always a good idea to have papers look the waiting room is filling up it’s not polite to keep talking I have another hour when I get home I’ll eat lunch and take a nap I’m a patient man in São Paulo they always said to me Lin you’re a patient man I was doing door-to-door those days selling linens ladies’ handkerchiefs umbrellas too our linens were very popular mothers gave them to their daughters on their wedding days you remember the tablecloths we saved for you and Vitória once I waited two hours for an Englishman to get his money ready he said Lin you’re a patient man oh look the waiting room is filling up here are people with their babies it’s not polite to keep talking okay I love you bye-bye did you get the vitamins I sent

Added: Thursday, March 30, 2017  /  Used with permission.
Esther Lin

Esther Lin was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for 21 years. She is the author of The Ghost Wife (The Missouri Review, 2018), winner of the 2017 PSA Chapbook Fellowship. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, Drunken Boat, Indiana Review, the Missouri Review Online, Triquarterly, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She was awarded the Crab Orchard Review’s 2018 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize and was a 2015 Poets House Emerging Poet. Currently she is a 2017–19 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and an organizer for Undocupoets.

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