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Wang Xiuying

My FuchsiaRuth Fainlight
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My fuchsia is a middle-aged woman
who’s had fourteen children, and though
she could do it again, she’s rather tired.

All through the summer, new blooms.
I’m amazed. Yet the purple and crimson
have paled. Some leaves are yellowed or withering.

The new buds look weaker and smaller,
like menopause babies. But still
she’s a gallant fine creature performing her function.

– That’s how they talk about women,
and I heard myself using the same sort of language.
Then I understood my love for August:
its exhausted fertility
after glut and harvest.

Out in the garden, playing
at being a peasant forced
to slave until dark with a child on my back

another at the breast and probably
pregnant, I remember
wondering if I’d ever manage

the rites of passage from girl
to woman: fear
and fascination hard to choose between.

Thirty years later, I pick the crumpled flowers
off the fuchsia plant and water it
as if before the shrine
of two unknown grandmothers –
and my mother, who was a fourteenth child.

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