MARK MY WORDS by Christine H. Chen

Christine H. Chen

Ah Ma tells me what a lucky girl I am, I am the only child, Ah Ba spoils me with toys I break within a week, dresses I dirty within minutes, shoes I muddy after one wear, what a lucky girl I am who has everything now that we live in America, the land of big-box stores with acres of surface and shelves filled with people’s dreams of things to buy and accumulate in their vinyl-siding homes with manicured lawns, who never had to fight for the last ladle of porridge with a brother or a sister, never had to watch Grandpa paraded on the streets by juvenile Red Guards, younger than Ah Ma, never had to be called dirty words like Bourgeois, never had rotten cabbages thrown on unwashed hair because there was no running water, never been denied to study because Grandpa was listed as Enemy of the Proletariat because he worked for a bank in Shanghai, never had to get up at four a.m., wake up the youngest brother, bundle him on her back sling to queue for rationed rice, never had to suck on an empty spoon for the last drop of watered-down rice because she’s the oldest who had to give up everything for the younger-than-her and the older-than-her, never had to watch your brothers and sisters being whisked away to labor camps to rid them of Capitalist Thoughts, never had to see your second brother return from the rice fields with leech bites all over his legs, never had to watch your little sister shrivel in size while her throat ballooned into a tumor, never had to fan the dying coal to heat cold feet, never had to bandage Grandpa’s beaten bloody head while Grandma whimpered under soiled bed sheets, never had the burden of the family like boulders on your shoulders, never had to accept to marry an old blind man to escape from the Communists, never had the luxury to throw tantrums, to pout, resist, frown, spurn, sulk, disregard, protest, shout back, defy like what I’m doing in this minute instead of washing the dishes, and that’s when Ah Ma slaps me hard right across the face leaving these four red finger marks.

Christine H. Chen was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Madagascar before settling in Boston where she worked as a research chemist. Her fiction work has been published in CRAFT Literary, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, trampset, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of the 2022 Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship and the co-translator from French of the hybrid novel My Lemon Tree, forthcoming in 2023 by Spuyten Duyvil. Her publications can be found at

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