Kotobuki

The owner of the Japanese restaurant
we’ve gone to for the last two decades asks:
When your father-in-law died, did someone

give birth around the same time? I tell her,
as a matter of fact, my sister-in-law had
her fourth child a few weeks after that.

Machiko claps her hands and exclaims:
You see, that is what happens. That is what
we believe!
Just after her grandmother

died years ago in Okinawa, she
gave birth to her daughter; now
she helps her manage this restaurant,

whose name means “Long life.”
When we leave it is late, and the moon
is a pale winnowing basket in the sky.

In the parking lot I kick over
the brassy shells cast off by cicadas
beneath the trees. I wonder, whose place

did I take when I entered this world?
And where will I go one day when it’s time
to take off my coat and re-enter the chain?

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