Sunday Mornings

by Serenity Chan

Sunday Morning, a colored pencil and graphite on paper by Jada Tuffin.
audio: read by the author

on every sunday morning

after twenty-five minutes in the old honda

under a scorching sun and with sweaty hands

i’d greet you with good morning, maa maa

and you’d say jóu sàhn with a tight hug

and i’d trudge on into your rundown townhouse

after saying hello to your old golden cat outside

and i think this is my home

it smells like golden cup balm

an old nasty herbal smell 

it smells like bandages and ointments,

ointments that you used to slather on me,

or even bathe me in with smelly yellow pastes

and it smells like home cooked fish soup

(careful of the bones! you say)

and medicine and medicine and medicine 

but it smells like home to me

there’s medicine next to the buddhist shrine

where i sit and bow three times 

after offering three sticks of incense

there’s three guava candies in the bowl 

and three ants outside crawling to a hole in the wall

and i leave them alone because that is their home

and this is our home

on a sunday morning

i greet you with hi, maa maa

but you don’t reply

you, the one who used to stand behind me 

like a shadow borne from the warmest campfire

you let the monks, strangers in our home, come in

they chant and offer fruit

and i sit and bow three times to the buddhist shrine

but not for buddha,

but for you

it doesn’t smell like medicine anymore at least

it smells like incense sticks,

the ones with red tips that fall off and used to burn me,

but now, they do not hurt me 

it smells like the salty tears of the grieving 

and the bitter sobs of the mourning

and i leave because it feels like there’s a fish bone stuck in my throat

and because,

this is not our home

but it is yours

home is on sunday mornings

so i don’t go home on sunday

but when i go to bed on sunday nights

i dream about fish bone soups and golden cup balms

i dream about you,

the one who ignited the growing flame in me

and doused it in cold muddy water,

and i finally think

hi maa maa, i’m home


I am a junior who enjoys playing video games like “Don’t Starve,” watercolor painting, reading and baking in my free time. I also enjoy annoying my sisters.

What is your main source of inspiration??

My main source of inspiration is my family. Everything I do is for them, and they make me want to be a better person.

What was the most difficult part of your writing process for this work?

The most difficult part was articulating my thoughts into coherent lines. My thoughts are often jumbled up in my head and only make sense to me, so trying to put the pieces together was difficult.

How do you resonate with your piece? Why is it personal to you?

This piece represents how the absence of my grandma left a huge “dent” in my life and how she connects to my religion. It’s personal in that after my grandma passed away, I felt that I didn’t grieve enough. My sister had cried for weeks, yet I returned to school feeling all right. I had thought something was wrong with me, but it was only after time had passed that I realized all the little things in my life that reminded me of her. It took time for me to come to terms with her death, and when I did, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. That is why I pray to Buddha, because she makes me want to believe in it.