One petal picked.
February 7.
One earthly rotation passes
so rapidly, I almost forgot
a year marking loss has arrived.
I’ve been crossing streets quickly
and hopping on buses to and from destinations.
When I walk out of the practice room
that day, the sky glows,
a baby blue opening up to warm pinks.
The lake’s waves lap over each other, fluttering
like an angel’s wings.
I stand still and watch.

Two petals picked.
My friend turned 20 on the first day of Chinese New Year.
We mark the start
of another decade of life with dim sum:
the taste of home revived through the
crunch of crispy pork, the soul-spreading warmth
of preserved egg congee,
and the roasted flavors of BBQ pork buns.
We eat our way through a childhood
of good feelings and bittersweet nostalgia.
Our meal ends with the crack
of fortune cookies, joking
over slips of paper that supposedly
dictate our future.
I normally don’t think twice about these sweets,
but my fortune bears the prospect of prosperity
and hope.
I scribble the date on the back
of my slip of paper, believing that
some force of the universe
wanted me to receive this today.

Three petals picked.
Someone gave me a rose on the last day of Chinese New Year.
Just budding, the rose’s pretty petals remained
closed upon themselves: pink,
like everything else in my room.
The flower stood
alone in a mini cylindrical vase.
It’s pretty, but
something about it
made me a little melancholic too.

Four petals picked.
My friends and I talked at 2 AM
one random Saturday night, all the lights in my room
turned off and only the glimmer
of fading fairy lights remaining.
We let any idea that forms in our brain float
out of our mouths.
Girlhood, grief, feeling young,
growing old.
Nothing marks the passage of time
and soon it’s 4 AM.
We forget some of the contents of our conversations,
drunk on tiredness and
sleep-deprivation from the past week,
but I still remember
the roots of our words.

Five petals picked.
2014. That was the last time
I visited my great aunt and uncle in China.
I don’t really remember the creases of their faces or
the inflections of their voices anymore,
but I can still taste my delight
as they cooked meal after meal.
Ten years gone feel more like five.
I learned of my great aunt’s passing mere days
after Chinese New Year ended last year.
If I knew ten years ago that was the last time
I would ever taste her oatmeal,
perfectly crafted
with a balance of sweet and savory,
maybe I would’ve chewed
a little slower.

Six petals picked.
Grief works in funny ways.
The day after I received my pretty pink rose,
I forgot to fill its vase with water.
The past week had flown, its wings
knocking me off my feet as I ran
from day to day.
I came back to my dorm to the sight
of the rose’s sad figure,
stem downturned, petals dried of life.
I thought my neglect had killed it.
My roommate told me to cut the bottom of the stem
twice while soaked in water.
I struggled to dig my scissors into the stem’s
rough and sturdy base, watching
the broken bits float
in the water-filled vase,
with desperate hopes the rose would return
to life.

Seven petals picked.
I read somewhere that for every person who dies,
two are born.
Life and death inextricably intertwined,
it’s bizarre and makes
perfect sense all at the same time.
My roommate likes decorating our dorm
with real plants and despises
the artificial permanence of fake ones.
I used to not understand it: the whole sight
of watching life die in front of your eyes.
But this cycle – birth and growth, healing
sickness to health, life turning over to death
– is growing on me.
Raising a rose reflects that cycle
at a thousand times speed.
A day after fussing over its deterioration, I returned
to my rose rising
in tall elegance, pretty pink petals
opening into the beginning of
a full bloom.

One petal left.
In the middle of a week showered with
storm watches and wind advisories,
a sunny, 68-degree day arrived.
My friends and I ate dinner on the beach, and
I watched the rays
of the orange sun disappear
behind the horizon, day closing
to night, until only a tint of purple remains
among deep blue skies.
Magic hour, people call it.
It feels like the crossing of two worlds: Life
and Life’s ever after.
Magic hour’s portal fades away
in minutes, leaving the world under
one large, dark blanket.
The petals on my rose are
falling, one by one.
I can’t save it this time.
The sun will shine again next week,
and maybe I’ll buy another rose too.
I chew my sandwich
a little slower.