everyone had a different life. Almost every house had the same shade of green for paint; and shutters of brown. Stones packed themselves into the sides of hills to hold up what might wash away in the rain. Even then we had some inkling of change, though not how it would come or what it would take. One morning, we woke to find rowboats shored up in the front yard. Years later, someone said You move away, but the subject always remains.
did you mean to leave a comma there was there a missing article what is the difference between the subjunctive and the imperative i know an order when i hear one even if clothed in a lie or threat as for the subjunctive expressing something desired or imagined— our condition has always been subjunctive when will you acknowledge our presence with respect not the wait staff not the maid not the mail order bride not a plagiarist drug dealer we tell our stories in beautiful language your heart would break if you knew but you have ears stopped up with rancid milk your teeth are bullets that gleam with their own kind of bad light
Late summer, with its humid tunnels. Dragonflies and bees in torpor. Then a week of heavy cloud bands, hurricanes churning inland from the sea. For Rent or For Sale signs going up in neighborhoods; new coffeeshops opening while some write cautious notices about temporary closure. We're nowhere extraordinary. In fact everything is quite commonplace. And yet each body, out, moving in the open while trying to skirt another, is unsettled. Others don't want to believe anything has changed. Others mourn hard in confinement.
This is where I learned the words treadle and bobble, winder and spool; that feed dog is the name of the teeth below the needle plate. To this day, I flinch a little at the menacing sound of hook and eye, but remember how expertly she attached each pair to the two ends of a collar or a waistband's edge. The young and beautiful daughters of our town came to our gate with their glossy fashion magazines; they pointed out skirts and suits and wedding gowns that she could sew for half the price of a ready-to-wear. I never wore jeans until nearly in college; never wore an Oxford shirt that wasn't bespoke. Her hands no longer fly over a panel of fabric or sketch quick lines on pattern paper across the back of a French curve. Someone has spirited her Singer out of her house, maybe sold it at some quick price not equal to its value. When my fingernail traces a poorly made seam from a factory-made piece of clothing, I think of her bent over a zipper; or feeding rayon or silk under the needle. Out of whole cloth, a parsing of parts. Then their joining into a shape meant to perfectly envelope your own.
Leaf by branch the trees bend toward the end
of summer; birds wing away from the sun.
When all of us are gone, the bees will still
spin in their honey-hives until orchards find
a different bride. Until then, pick each grief
with as much care as if it were fruit only needing
to ripen. When their skins soften and break like love
spilled open, then perhaps their hearts will speak.
My heart these days: noisy thunderstorm breaking over the stones. And the morning after, when spore-lined domes proliferate across the grass. It sinks into itself a little more like spongy bread. I slice onions and chop greens and throw in a small hot pepper, careful not to touch my eyes. When they water, it isn't clear if one could call this crying. After all, there's salt everywhere. Copper and blood in the streets. Travelers waiting in queue for the signal to board a boat. Everyone else unfixed or in place.
My mother is not at home, but in a care home where she gets three hot meals a day and nurses look after her needs. The home she left before she was admitted to the care home was a split- level built on the side of a hill. This was not the home of my child- hood, but a home she bought when the upkeep of the former became too much for her. When she still lived in this house on the hill, others lived with her: but they siphoned off her running water and electricity. I'm told that her marble coffee table and two end tables have gone missing, and her sewing machine. Now that she isn't there, lights are ablaze in every window. So many people say this is a commonplace story. No one has any solution and I don't know what to do. They want me to drop everything and just go. The nurses say sometimes she sits in the yard in her wheelchair and begins to sing.
America, it’s the day after
another hurricane hurtles
through towns, a fringe
of tornados leading the way.
The Baptist Church on the corner
of 38th and Bluestone has its face
sheared off completely by blades
of wind. Oak trees lie on their sides,
unpinned from lawns. Pine
branches intersect with power
lines. America, I used to believe
in your storied generosity: how
firefighters and volunteers alike
paddled through high water
to pluck shivering families off
their roofs; how police tapped
on the window to ask if every-
thing was alright instead of
ordering an entire family,
down to the youngest child,
to lie on the asphalt, arms
crossed behind their backs.
My only crime, said Carlos
Bulosan, is to be a Filipino in
America. Did you know the nurse
who checks your vitals in the crowded
ICU first studied to be a teacher, and
her husband who drives a truck
has a degree in physics? All night,
the warning signals blare on
and off. One of the neighbors
worries about the man who sat
bundled in a blanket on the corner
across the drugstore. The rain
was still falling, but there was
no more room in the shelters.
Show me what swells gathering momentum without breaking Defending from unjust punishment what requires only to be unoccupied, open as a field of wheat as a field of cotton Unchartered but not irregular or without law Before the survey and the postcard islands knew how to breathe even in the dark You couldn't tell teeth from wet pearls of rice
In June, the rain earnest now in its involvement with our affairs: we wielded brooms of gathered palm rib, dragged their stiff tips across landings, courtyard paths. But how with such flimsy instruments could we return what the skies kept doling out? Chorus of movements intent upon the stones— loosened gravel, old leaves, dead insects caught in that paradox of gathering. All the water in the world: inexhaustible, falling over balconies.