the Witch Cave | Aiden Heung

The tomato-field trembled as my grandma
sunk her hoe like a scalpel into the soil.
The upturned earth un-petaled
beside her feet, laying bare
the darkness that looked like fecundity.
The cut scent of the rain came wet
towards her and besmirched her hands.
Behind her, the peak towered majestically,
girdled with clouds that dissipated
in the bright sun. And a cave hid beneath.
It was the witch cave, she said.
A place where sorrow was revved
into delight as the dead stayed
but as another form. She knew it well
the day she shoveled open the mountain slope
and buried my grandpa there, like a seed.
所以我爷爷在洞里面?I asked.
She bent to pick up a fallen tomato;
her weight oppressing the air,
then came the susurrus of leaves.
That was how I remembered her,
a woman hunched over branches and the fruit
of life in her hands, red
like the lantern on our eaves.
I didn’t know if she was crying.

Years later
we buried grandma in a different city;
we didn’t know better,
we could’ve placed her in the cave,
But adults never believed children.

Now as I place the framed photo
of my grandparents on the wall,
the same mountain sun comes
almost twenty years late to my room,
so bright and dazzling

I have to close my eyes.


Aiden Heung is a poet born and raised on the edge of Tibetan Plateau. He holds an MA in literature from Tongji University in Shanghai. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous online and print magazines including Cha: An Asian Literary JournalLiterary ShanghaiVoice & Verse, The Shanghai Literary ReviewNew English ReviewMekong ReviewThe Raw Art Review among many other places. He was shortlisted for the 2020 Doug Draime Poetry Prize and he was also awarded the 2019 Hong Kong Proverse Poetry Prize.

He can be found on twitter @AidenHeung.