“Ode to C. B., my summer love”
As sun slides into humid dusk,
when bats take wing from idle trees,
my throat choked by Mongolian dust
and slight is hope of cool sea breeze,
there grows within a hankering
for my summer soulmate, Chwa Bing.
White hair as soft as mi-tai-mu,
“tree ears,” almond eyes (and peanut zits),
red ripe jujubes, such kissable lips,
sometimes, I feel like eating you.
Modest or bejeweled; love has two alchemists:
“black sugar” veil, thick cream bandana,
“fruit d’amour” broach, taro amethysts,
barley pearls, necklace of banana;
and multicolored QQ candy bling—
nothing’s too fine, for my precious “Bao Bing.”
Some jellies: hsien-tsao and ai-yu,
beans: “red,” “green” and “honey,”
chewy things: o-yee and hwun-yee,
oh mysterious ineffable you.
Your complexion changes by the season,
as with fruit, most colorful,
peach, grape, mango, persimmon,
coconut, strawberry and pineapple,
on top, a snub-nosed caramel pudding,
oh, how I love you, cute Bing Bing.
Peaches stop coughs, grapes strengthen tendons,
and mangoes, they quench my thirst,
all of which makes you the perfect first
or last dish for a meal to end on.
Grapefruit detox the alcoholic,
guavas plug one’s diarrhea,
lotus seeds are a blood-and-chi tonic,
consumed on ice, a great panacea;
it seems, therefore, our summer fling
is both a healthy and zestful thing:
the more beans one eats, the more one pees,
papayas aid digestion,
plums kill worms in one’s intestine,
but eat too fast and one gets brain freeze.
When summer suns give autumn moons,
the grass is wet, from trees fall leaves,
it’s not just twilight’s mood that cools,
of glacial swims, no one conceives:
and sad to say, dear sweet Chwa Bing
you’re somewhat less to my liking.
As rains fall heavier, winds blow more’n’more,
bronchitic germs invade my chest,
my new-found interest, I must confess,
is for your spicy cousin, Huo Guo.
Copyright Mark Caltonhill
(Mark Caltonhill is a British writer, poet and photographer based in Taiwan; his next book is an exploration of Taiwan's food culture)