[and today I have written at least a poem a day, every day, for the last two years]
“Forever and forever, and forever.” ~ Ezra Pound, “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”
When I was six, my biological mother took me to Mido Chinese restaurant in the plaza to meet the lover she was not supposed to have. We climbed the stairs to the mezzanine. The air was stale with the smell of sesame oil, fried onions, and five spice powder. You can have a dumpling with your soup, she whispered. Just don’t tell your mother that we came here, or whom we met. She was referring to her older sister, her only sister, who was raising me as her own, and putting her through high school. Both of them, therefore, were/are my mothers; and I was taught a special name for each of them.
I do not remember the face of the man we met there. I do not know for sure if this is the man she married, one grey morning months later in December. (Was it December?) Gigi, one of the next door neighbors’ daughters, served as flower girl with me. We wore stiff white satin dresses and tiny tulle veils; Gigi had stolen a tube of pink lipstick from her older sister’s dresser. She grasped my chin with her left hand and said, Pucker, then smack. I obeyed, making a fish face as she applied a waxy stripe of color to my lips. We stood in the vestibule, shivering, waiting for the cue to begin walking down the aisle, scattering dahlia and rose petals.
Is she going to faint? Gigi wanted to know. All brides faint at the altar, she said confidingly. That’s because the waistlines of their dresses are tightened, so they don’t show in case they already have a baby. She didn’t know, but I knew that couldn’t be true, because I was so far the only baby— and wasn’t I standing there, in a pair of shoes that pinched, clutching a wicker basket still full of petals husked from beheaded blooms?
No, not many knew. No one knew then, either, that one afternoon this man put his hands under my waistband and said, eyes glinting, I know another way to make you pee. And there they were, bending their heads under the veil and cord, passing a handful of coins from one to the other: making promises, drinking the wine without knowing quite yet we’d already fallen, head-first, all of us, into the rest of everything to come.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES
- The season turns again
- We woke and the world was colder,
- I wanted the taste of bitter greens
- Sibilant Ghazal
- Life Skills
- Dear Naga Buddha,
- Notes to/on the plagiarist
- The Empress of Malcolm Square
- 4 Etchings
- In One and the Same Moment
- Wayang Kulit
- Exit Interview (excerpt)
- And ever
- Canción sin fin
- Pavor Nocturnus
- If only the wind now dresses the trees
- Elegy, even after 22 years
- The years teach much that the days never know*
- Thin fog, as in the corners of a tintype—