She said you were a good man
That you had a short temper but a kind heart
You liked your ice clinking in a glass
but your children quiet in a room.
She kept a hand on the volume for fear of yours,
Almost laughs at a memory of a knife sailing through the door,
Of five heads at a window,
Of six hearts splintered open,
Two adults wanting to be their children.
Cross stitch the fading image of the back of their mom’s head
Onto throw cushions of a sold sofa,
She asked me to bring them home
homesickness melted away when I turned to your big hands, soft and gentle on my back, reminding me of familiar places and sticky nights, belly laughs and dragonflies, the scent of citrus in the dark of night, and the way headlights kissed your eyes liquid silver
my mother held a cold towel
my father, a blue flask
as someone took a nail to my head,
and drove it right through my temple.
my body was set ablaze,
a sudden scorching desert
skin flushed between red and white,
it scaled and itched,
lips and tongue – cracked and hostile,
needles like snakes in the back of my hand
routinely dipping in the veins by my elbows.
my blood boiled and my body heaved,
as their hearts ached at the end of my bed,
daily doses of mere presence.
God takes only so we can see how much others give,
reveals love in all forms:
papaya leaves and bitter drinks
bad jokes and no sleep
soft prayers and small smiles
fear meets love and holds hands.
My skin crawls, each hair standing at attention
As I sink into the memories of my youth:
Bespectacled and fitted into clothes twice my personality,
My awkward limbs waded through adolescence,
Searching for myself in a sea of opinions.
Lost in the waves, I fought the natural inclination to fold inwards,
Thank God, my legs finally graced the shore
I battled the waters only to drink the ocean.
sometimes you have to remind them
fear is not a home
women want to live in
she drops a coin by the temple
lifts her palms to meet,
her nose kisses her thumbs,
her chin greets her chest.
her lips move to let slip words I cannot hear
but in her gentle grace, I could almost see them
suspended in mid-air, dancing with the ashes
tokens of sacrifice, offerings of gratitude.
the smoke stings my eyes and my nose twitches in protest,
I take two steps back and observe the heads in prayer
their faith in the promised cycle of death and rebirth
You can almost see the calm that descends among the masses;
the red wax dripping off the joss sticks
gold paper and white ash in yellow flames
smoke greeting each bowed head before meeting the sky
as if to say, “nice to see you again”
On good days, I think I will meet you in Heaven,
Sit by you in silence as you shake your head at the news
Help you find the words to your stories of the war,
Groan as you ask me to rub your feet
Pour you a glass of whiskey
On bad days, I wonder if I would recognize you from the photos
If you were to see me in Heaven or stay in bed
If I grew up to meet your eye line or to find them shut in frustration
Would the sound of my voice pull the edges of your lips to meet your chin
Would you pretend to be asleep when I knock on your door
We never got the chance to meet but I
Still wish your image was carved by my own hand holding yours
That your words fell from your lips right to my ears
Not carried by a generation in between
Dissolved in time and lost in translation
An entire part of me I’ll never find
until I meet you in Heaven.