Orange-Peeled Laments

Kan Ren Jie

“天乌乌 / 欲落雨 – Ti Or Or / Bei Lor Hor
                             The sky is getting dark / the rain is coming” – A Hokkien Children’s Song

He remembers the oranges. Peels jutting. Skin-drenched. Skin tied. A knot
                 a kitchen, grime under the tiles. Grime
in Mother’s words. They were coming
                 for the stones, Mother said. They were coming—
the backyard, muscular arms, ripping timber. Lumber men. Corrugated-steel men.
                 Mother was, of course, trying to stop them. Hands
bleeding sour. Hands, splayed with sweat. Ti Or
Or. Bei Lor Hor.

Lullaby, citrine.     Lullaby sky,    blackened, discarded like pulp. Ghut ah Ghut.
                 Digging. Their digging.                 These stones       these men        removing sideboards. Curtains.
Removing living rooms. Removing living, false teeth
                 Drenched in motor-oil.  A curtain ripped. A sky, glaring. Ti  Or Or.
                                                   Beh Lor Hor.    Black Ti       Black sky. The
puppy eyes. Cut, this orange—
this squeezed skin, flattened lungs—these peels   crinkly,
crumbling like skin.   Her veins pulsed, attempting to quiet—attempting to blind.
                 Stop,   stop—her cries floating, now
putrid this  body—for the house, wooden rafters—can only take
                 these tears. Beh Lor Hor,                 Beh
                                  Lor Hor—the rain, these hands
dripping sweat. His hands know
                 their heavy sweat. Stop stop,
                 but how powerless, this sweat-drenched shirt. Mother, learning
to stifle cries. The strange-faced men
                 will always take,                 never wait,
                 never—till pebbles, till rocks, till little grained-ones, large grained-ones: timber beams removed.
Nails digging into flesh. Till all that’s left—scooped portions of light.
An orange, a stone. The remnant of a house, the fading grasp of flesh. The son looks at his mother.
Becoming then, her cries.
KAN REN JIE is a Singaporean writer living in Shanghai. He studied Literature and Creative Writing at Yale-NUS College, and currently works as a Global Writing and Speaking Fellow at New York University Shanghai. His poems have been featured at Spittoon Monthly, The Parliament Literary Journal, and Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. He is currently working on a manuscript that imagines new histories surrounding artifacts about Christianity in China.