Robin dawn hudechek
sing song girls
For the Chinese girls sold into prostitution in the Old West
She remembers the day they came for her,
the coins they tossed,
how her parents snapped them up, deft as chickens,
their backs prematurely bent and unyielding,
and the neighbors gathered outside their houses,
white faced and useless as day-old rice,
made miserable by the daughters
they could no longer shelter or feed.
Wearing only a silk shirt, the girl sings to
white ghosts, gold miner ghosts with empty kettle eyes
and hands that paw and grasp,
moving like the miles of track
her countrymen built and are now buried under.
Sing to the white ghosts a song of comfort,
of curtains parting: Chinee girls very nice!
A cane raps against her shoulders:
her mute defiance, a reed that no longer bends
to the spitting and the curses, the smoke-filled voices,
none of them soft enough to reach her.
Unable to remain still
under their writhing bodies, dung-crusted boots
bruising blankets, ankles, thighs,
she turns hands trained in pleasure upon her own face,
clawing at her cheeks.
And now this: an empty rice bowl,
a wood-plank bed without sheets or pillows,
comforts for the living
a door that does not open,
and blurs into a wall,
rows upon rows of bricks.
She can hear them coming, the two men who
will snap her throat or strangle her in her bed.
The candle sputters, a garish dancer taunting her,
skirts of wax pooling at its feet: Shut your eyes.
Be still. The rice bowl is empty.
Don’t let them catch you breathing.
You ask me what colors I want you to weave into my scarf:
Pine— for dark forests on hillside ridges, and their hidden shadows
and burnt amber--the color of campfires sputtering in the wind.
You knit and pine branches sway above me.
You thread the most fragile strands with silver beads,
the color of frozen-over lakes, and over these
I bend to search for you,
but there is only cracked firmament,
water above and ice below,
your imposed silence, dividing us.
In your folding the scarf around my neck,
tender knots of yarn lock in an uneasy embrace,
and years spent weaving in pine-scented pieces unravel
like the roots of an ancient tree
freed from a parched and unnourishing soil.
I want you to know, I loved your gift and the modeling:
wool draped over my chest in feminine stirrings
and tucked at my neck, just so.
I love you for the gift itself, made with your own hands.
But this scarf is ill-fitting and will never match my face or clothes
and I wear it for just one day before the yarn unwinds
onto a road veering off into a wrong direction,
a desert road with rocks and a gully, but nowhere to turn.
No way to call you. No way to look back.
Robin Dawn Hudechek has an MFA in creative writing, poetry from UCI. Her poems have appeared in Caliban, Cream City Review, Chiron Review, Cadence Collective, Poemeleon, The Hummingbird Review, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, Kentucky Review and elsewhere. She has two chapbooks: Ghost Walk, (the Inevitable Press, 1997) and Ice Angels, published in IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (Silver Birch Press, October, 2015). Robin lives in Laguna Beach with her husband, Manny and two beautiful cats.