clari (mars) gao

Ba calls again to remind me that we are from Shandong Rizhao, north of the mountain where the sun shines, from my father’s father’s father’s father’s side; although, Ba has never even been there, and I just wonder where all my mothers went. He tells me that it’s been too long and that history, like a green onion, does not last forever. 第一, the root lasts four to five generations at best, and 第二, it mutates, meaning it will not taste the same regrown in different waters.

When he left China, he cradled a bundle of spring onion into the airport like a hairy little son because his sister said if they can take root anywhere, so can he: in a yogurt cup empty of yogurt half full of water near the rusted windowsill, in the toilet, in the crevice of your mother’s elbow. He said he didn’t want to root anywhere else but the little market they loitered at every day after school, but sometimes, you don’t have a choice. Airport security detected signs of life other than him on his person and said that he had to pay for his onion baby’s ticket too. My father used to tell me that he left the baby with his older brother who was also there sending him off, but according to my aunt, my father tore into the baby with his teeth in front of everyone. The sprig was threaded into ribbons, peeling away in screeches like the necks of hydra, and from within, tender green skin sprayed red blood. He ate the little feet first, my aunt said, because he wanted it to learn how to stand sturdy in his belly.

Outside the waiting room, I hear Ba explain to American doctors in vain that the reason why he bleeds from in between his legs every month is that the hairy little son he is still carrying inside him is actually a little girl. He says that is why he does not drink American alcohol, only sweet rice wine he makes himself, which even children can take. When Ba is drunk, he tells me that when he dies, I will lose a father, but gain a little sister.

照顾好她 take good care of me please, he begs.

When his body begins to sink into the earth he will not have to tell me what to do with it: I will pluck him from the ground and carry him into the little fountain outside Safeway and wait for my long-lost sister to emerge from those pools like a dark little sun.

translations (Chinese to English)


first of all, or number one. not to be mistaken with the eldest brother of the litter, (弟一) which is written similarly and pronounced identically


second of all, second place after first, the second point in a list of arguments. often mistaken with the second brother of the litter (弟二), my father


take good care of her, a command, a plea, the thing my father will only say once about himself, and even then, it’s not about himself.

About the Author

clari (mars) gao is a writer based in California with works appearing/forthcoming in Cultural Daily and Echolalia. they love cats and all things that singe the tongue.

Instagram: @clvmars
Twitter: @clvmars