Last weekend I bought some Ling Gok (Trapa bicornis), also called "water caltrops," "devil pods," and ten thousand other names. I've never seen them available in the store before, but I believe that they are part of the commonly consumed foods for Lunar New Year. I like that the seed is lucky because it looks like a bat, which is lucky because its name (fú, 蝠) is very similar to the word for good fortune (fú, 福). I bought seven of them, and I don't intend to eat them because they're too awesome looking. They feel nice in my hand and make a nice dry rattling sound. I gave two of them away, so now I have five, but I just remembered that bats are usually in groups of five anyway, so it was fortuitous.
Water Caltrops with Butterfly
by Australian poet Jan Owen
from the May 2000 issue of Quadrant Magazine
"Things answer our gaze": Bachelard
The caltrops are too stale to boil with salt.
Posed on a Chinese plate, dreaming of flight,
they are black grotesques of primitive art,
bat fetish, owl mask, shaman horns.
Real wings are frayed red gold: the butterfly
was snagged on the balcony stucco yesterday.
I set it down on the same plate to die.
Already its tongue was a slack watch-spring
and its legs intending something feeble and fine
like a Chekhov heroine…