Lantern Review | Issue 9.2

Esther Sun

Life Lessons

All month I cast mahjong tiles
into the middle of the table

like coins. Last March
before I leave home. In this art form

based on probability, you taught me,

odds dictate you won’t always win
the round. The true game is to win

the most. Esther, please be

happy. In that case,

Mom, take these promises
like parting gifts:

I will not be a north wind,
a white dragon, a 红中. I will not

be discarded. I will re-
understand each milestone

as a winning hand. Happiness
as the entire game. I will calculate

which tiles increase my chances
of completion, that self-draw

of the last missing tile.

When the job offer falls through,
or he doesn’t come back, or the cold

new city rejects the winter’s thaw, I—
I will call for another round.

Note: 红中 (hóng zhóng) refers to a type of mahjong tile marked by the Chinese character 中 in red; typically discarded early in the round due to its relatively few combinations.

Photo of Esther Sun Esther Sun is a Chinese American writer from the Silicon Valley. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she received a Gold Medal Portfolio Award in the 2021 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has published poems in DIALOGIST, Cosmonauts Avenue, Pacifica Literary Review, and elsewhere. She attends Columbia University. • Photo by the author

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