Work and life

How did you do it, asks the child
who issued from your body. She

herself now has a child who is sick,
has caught his first cold; and she

is sick with worry. You look back
at those times as through a window

streaked with rain or fog. Or you are
coaxing someone to believe

yes it is OK to cross
the glass bridge that spans

the terrifying chasm. You gave up
trying to avoid steamed buns

filled with pork and shredded cabbage,
sticky rice boiled in coconut milk,

the allure of green
mangos with salted shrimp.

When you were tired you ate
in order to trick sleep.

But you couldn’t give up taking
mental notes of what drifted

your way by earshot: talk
in elevators, tearful confessions

above white tablecloths
too proud of their freedom

from crumbs. Also, you wanted nothing
more than to finish stacks of half-

read novels. In college you’d come
across the phrase the life of the mind

No one told you then you couldn’t have it
without living in the body. This body.

How the bright thoughts came
like flashes of light through those

windows, while you chewed on a pencil
end. While the babies drowsed in your arms.

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