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Against the Way My Grandmother Loves Citrus Trees

by Brandee Benson

My grandmother says yuzu is lucky,

finding a penny is luckier. Fortune

from a plant nursery is two


sided—besides, finding money is always more

auspicious than betting it away. My grandmother says

four is an evil number. In mandarin, it rings

like death on the tongue. She asks her grandchild,


who left the womb in April,

What is wrong with

you? What is wrong

with you? What is

wrong with you? What is

wrong with you? and swallows

her tears in four bitter gulps. Worship everything


before it rots. The yuzu tree outside

my window guarded all my breaths

from the sun’s hungry heat. Yesterday I woke

in ashes and slept

in bruised light. Grandmother lives


in an apartment building too high for trees.

In the elevator, she rebukes the architects for building

a fourth floor. Hold your breath


on the level between three and five.

That flight of stairs is a broken back.

Elevators make me sick. Who rides a ship

without anchors? Who is born without guilt


in the fourth month? What kind of tree burns

at night? What kind of child leaves luck

to rot on the ground? What kind of farmer doesn’t

pick fruit? Grandmother stoops,


falls when gathering pennies, the keys of her spine sharp

as scythes. I would help if fortune wasn’t


so flammable. When she finally cries

tongues of grief, I turn away,

walk past four cracks following the road. I don’t

use a compass, remember? Either I’m standing

or I’m airborne.


That’s what’s wrong with you. While I dream,

fortune burns. I take the stairs, let myself


Brandee Benson is a Chinese American poet who has lived in Austin, Texas her entire life. She has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and is an Editor in training for Polyphony Lit. Against The Way My Grandmother Loves Citrus Trees & Others would be her first published work. In her free time, she loves to read classic novels, doodle on the margins, and appreciate the sky, whether a blinding sunset or an overcast day.

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