I love the red round tin can
that fits snugly in my palm.
Mom calls it Wan Jin Yu—
"Ten Thousand Golden Oils."

Headaches? Muscular pains?
Massage this paraffin magic
on where it hurts and
your ailments are gone.

I've wondered whether
that tiger on the cap is leaping
into me or out— swirls
of black stripes on orange,

an analgesic wildcat
devouring fire demons
or antibiotic samurai
dispelling tiger fever?

Chinese legends say clouds
follow the dragon, winds
trail the tiger— Is this
the secret of Tiger Balm?

Not camphor, menthol, oils
of peppermint, cassia and clove,
but a cleansing wind that heals
and brings us calm.

Peter Y. Chou
Palo Alto, 5-16-91

Peter Y. Chou— from Spring Harvest #19 (1992)

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