In the place where a large gum tree
used to cast its long shadow, two troughs
in the soil where they drove a stump grinder

and worked all of two mornings to take it down—
You can see networks of old roots, their hurts
unburied. When it rains for a week, they lie

in a humid brown slurry. The sky heaves
and I watch from a window, curled up
on the couch, rubbing the spot above

my right rib that pings with unfamiliar
ache. There are things I continue to learn
about myself: how sometimes I can’t bear

to be alone, and other times I long
for the silence in which I’m not required
to explain why I cut the meat completely

away from bone, or how I can stand
the wintergreen sting of bai hua yeow,
white flower oil, on my temples

and nape. Sickly all through my childhood,
I’d dream the orange plumes of ginger flowers
at the end of a tunnel lit by fever flame.

I’d pray through haze of garlic-pulp salves
for the spell of illness to break; for the clean
taste of water to rise at last in my veins.

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