Marshall Gu


Thirty years ago, my mother moved to Canada,
Paul Simon on the radio, laughter in the air.

But she started missing the little things.
She bought more spring onions.
She bought two small stone lions and placed them near the piano.
Which she never learned to play,
But she thought she could at least pose in front of it.
She wanted to pose in a qipao.
Except she did not own one.
She asked my father to bring one when he would next come home.

She is retired now.
She often complains about being bored.
We’ve conquered space but can’t beat ennui.
She would go for walks, if her knees didn’t hurt.
She would read more, if the words weren’t in English.
She would learn to play the piano, if she hadn’t sold it.
It is said that feng shui lions are meant to bring good luck,
But the qipao never came.
I’d like to think, maybe their protection charm worked—
My father never did come home.


New Year’s Eve, 2017. 2018 loomed like dark clouds, or some other quiet spectre. You were leaving the very next day for an unknown amount of time. In science, unknowns can be represented by x, or some other variable. In this case, time equals x. Time always equals x. But it felt like it would be forever. In this case, time also equals infinite. Time always equals infinite. I didn’t say anything because what could I say? Bored, you asked if I was interested in an experiment. I said yes immediately, because it was you. I would have said yes to anything: if I wanted to share an apple (I hate apples) or give up red meat (I’d give up food). You wanted to see what would happen if we fed our houseplant carbonated water. So we swapped out its diet and observed.

Scientists say that the Earth’s plates are moving one inch every year, which makes statements like “I’m standing still” untrue. Others say that the moon is moving away from us at about the same rate. This might be imperceptible in our lifetimes, but it comes with it, the intense realization that things you take for granted might leave one day.

The end of January means that 31 days have passed. x minus 31 is still infinite. The moon looks like it hasn’t moved. I’m still here. The plant is doing fine.

Marshall Gu, from Toronto. I have had short stories and poems previously published by the Dalhousie Review, the Spadina Literary Review, Untethered Magazine and Clay Literary. Additionally, I write music reviews for Tone Glow.

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