Mirror-shaped rice cakes pile up on a fern bed
like glowing cheeks in the morning sun.
Last night, we slurped our long soba noodles for
longevity, while the Old Year died away
with each gong from the mountain shrine.
I am in pajamas; my body carried fever over,
still intact from last year to this bright day.
No kimono for you, sings my sister—if I hit
her now, I won’t receive New Year’s money.
How white our shoji screen looks, all the tears
sealed with cherry petals, fresh paper blossoms.
Squinting, I enter the kitchen. My mother
opens a rice flour packet; I must pour water over
these snowy grits for moisture. How much?
She pulls my ear: Just enough to make it
this thick. My father stands a bamboo branch
in the corner; we will hang it with talisman strips,
stick its leafless ends into the rice cakes
I am preparing. My sticky fingers knead dough
till silky, then shape it into spheres, one by one.
This morning, each cake cocoons a spirit or
a word. New word soft as my earlobe.