Dreaming in a Language I Can't Speak

By Nina Powles

My mother’s name {雯}
means multi-coloured clouds.

I almost got it tattooed on my skin  
while explaining over and over

this is not a souvenir
this is not what it looks like

this is what you can’t see:  
the pieces of language that fell out of my mouth

as a child, the crushed-up words I’m pulling back
from disappearing rooms inside disappearing homes,  

the name my grandfather gave me {明雅}
two characters I still cannot write beautifully—

a sunnext to a moon
a toothnext to a bird

They gave me a wax seal with my name carved inside it.
In a room full of untouched sunlight

I let the hot wax drip onto my palm
leaving a mark that will fade over time

like the imprint of rain  
in burnt chrysanthemum clouds.

In the dream  
I open my mouth in the mirror

& birds fly out from between my teeth.
They do not make a sound.

Nina Powles is a writer and poet from New Zealand, currently living in Shanghai. She is the author of Girls of the Drift (Seraph Press, 2014) and several poetry zines. She blogs at Dumpling Queen, is co-editor of the International House of Poets Zine, and is the creator of Tiny Moons.