Who hasn’t felt regret’s thin blade or its accusatory messages, coming through the streets past sundown like an overworked mail carrier? It’s the season of giving and sending greeting cards and assorted packages— At the post office, lines are long but the workers must ask the HAZMAT question each time, or risk being suspended: Is there anything inside your package that is liquid, fragile, perishable, and potentially hazardous, such as lithium batteries or perfume? What I want to send halfway around the world, I pack in large Balikbayan boxes, paid for by volume and not by weight. Still, there is a limit on what each can contain: how many tins of ham, bags of candy, bars of soap, cans of coffee, tubes of toothpaste, pairs of shoes and boots and bags of cosmetics can fit into one? Years ago, back when I still lived there and we received parcels from overseas, we’d gather around as someone slit open the taped flaps. An aunt now dead had sent black patent Mary Janes and a walking doll for me. Father got neckties and boxes of Whitman’s samplers; mother, sets of bedsheets, a small flask of Chanel No. 5, dollar store pantyhose, and Hills Bros. coffee. Someone asked, is that what America smells like? I was frightened by that doll’s russet hair, silicone skin, jointed limbs. Those glass marble eyes fringed with fake lashes that opened and shut when you tilted its head all the way back.

One last trail of thin
dry stars from the Japanese
maple by the front steps.

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