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Creeping Oxalis in April— Yi Jung Chen

Oct 15, 2022 | Fiction | 0 comments

Self-translated from the Taiwanese by Yi Jung Chen 

On a scorching hot day in April, I was sweating like a pig and had an upset stomach. I did not know of a better way than to go for a walk with the mask on. Passing by a vacant piece of land, I caught a glimpse of a small and weak plant, huddling up by the wall silently. You stood still and dared not make any move. Only when the wind blew hard would you stretch, shake your body, and groove in groups to appeal to the morose mood for the sake of unraveling knots. 

Neighborhood kids trampled and shoved your thin and petite physique. Against your will, but you still made a fool of yourself, grinned ear to ear, and played with them. They loved to play ‘tug of war’ with you.

Little did you know, these spoiled brats would snap your waist, twist, and entangle you with their fingers. Although you frayed in rage and rue, you still hung on tight to your root. Then, you tried your best to untie the dead knot even at the expense of disfigurement. You were in such great pain that you began to wail. What’s even worse, your eyes turned blurry and you were almost blind. Before long, you were torn into pieces before you fell to the ground.

(Note: The aforementioned paragraph was a child’s game with 2 players involved: pulling the plant together in opposite directions and the one who got the more intact stalk won.)

When I was a child, I acted like a newborn calve making fun of the tiger. I was fearless and loved to cover the quilt over my body with the bamboo sticks in my hand. I was at war with my friends. Consequently, greatly disparaged, my mom, spanked me and gave me a very hard time, to say the least. However, she prepared a snack for me promptly. It was a dish using creeping oxalis as the main ingredient. After dipping it in ice water, the final touch was steaming it in the oven and adding some sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar in it. The dish seemed absolutely delicious and irresistible with its sweet-sour aroma. My tummy rolled with hunger.

“What on earth was the name of such a yummy appetizer?” I inquired, curiously.

“They are very elegant and beautiful flowers, called Creeping Oxalis ,” my mom explained patiently. “They have purple petals and come in both three or four leaves. You can see them everywhere so frequently that people often think that they are worthless. On the other hand, I used to pick them up and make them into bookmarks.”


The Oxalis plant

At that time, my mom gave me one of her favorite bookmarks as a gift. Considering it as an amulet and also a remembrance of my childhood, I always bore the following life motto in mind, “From generation to generation, Taiwanese people unyieldingly adhered to the principles of tolerance and forgiveness, that is to say, earning the optimal outcome through hardships. And through adversity, you will eventually grow. Moreover, if you are always complaining about being taken advantage of by others, you will be the one who suffers in the end.” I will always deem them as warnings, no matter what happens in the future. 

Also, read three poems by Rajathi Salma , translated from Tamil by Deepalakshmi J, and published in The Antonym.

Dreamless Nights & Other Poems— Rajathi Salma

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Yi Jung Chen teaches pupils with learning difficulties at Dounan Elementary School in Taiwan. She used to write children’s stories for illustrated picture books both in English and Japanese separately. However, they were kept unpublished. In her leisure time, she also writes poems in English, Chinese, and Taiwanese languages. Her dream is to share the beauty of Taiwanese people through its daily language with people around the world.


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