Transits

Cities in the south
streaming past the dirty
taxicab window.

Roadside kiosks selling fruit
and roast pork, mounds of ripe

jackfruit, their golden yellow
bellies hacked open. The heat
like a veil over everything;

and somewhere in its pocket,
a whiff of the sea.

Not far from the shopping mall
and mega-grocery store, a statue
of a native who killed

the Portuguese sailor.
It’s almost impossible to find

anything that isn’t made
in China. A woman wants to know
how she can make sure the rice

she’s buying hasn’t been bulked up
with grain-shaped plastic pellets.

*

Another summer, another country.
My friend asks if I feel I
could ever go back

to that place we both
once called home.

She doesn’t really wait
for my answer. Her husband pours
a beer into my glass.

In their backyard, they name
for me the climbing roses:

Lady of Shallott. Boscobels.
The Lark Ascending. Frau Eva
Schubert. Jubilee Celebration.

I want to empty myself wholly
into their scented cups.

*

Here, we make fried
breakfasts when we can: eggs;
toast; rice on weekends.

I miss that old ritual of waiting
for the bean curd vendor at the gate.

Or brown paper bags filled
with hot knuckles of bread
dusted with salt and crumbs.

I don’t mean for everything I write
to sound like nostalgia.

Perhaps it’s more like
inventory: one column for things
that continue to simmer under

the skin, another for those
that have evaporated.

*

I had a blue linen dress
with printed flowers. A scratchy
sweater of woven brown fibers.

I had a stone carved in the shape
of a Buddha; a polished wooden

shoehorn; a basket of woven
seagrass. I am always listing,
adding details as they get clearer.

*

For months, I stood in front
of the bathroom mirror, twisting
at wayward bone fragments

embedded in the gum above my teeth until,
finally, they gave. My little vampire

apparatus, my wish: not to live forever,
only to live. Here I am, unhomed body;
older now but still pulsing with longing.

*

 

In response to Via Negativa: Autumnal.

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