I’ve been trying to write since
nine, counting hours in passing
cups of steam. I give myself
a word: ethereal. As in,
in ancient times, tea leaves were
thought to be ethereal. Wait
ephemeral. I’m ashamed
to admit that at twenty-two
and in grad school, I still
don’t know these words. I
wish this could be simpler. I
wish there were set directions like
steep for two minutes, lift,
set aside in a separate, small bowl.
I am in a teashop because
I can’t write in my apartment.
Thoughts thunder jaggedly to me.
This is the way to say it, this is
a way to say it, this is not the way
to say it. The man next to me
rose to get some more milk,
left his wallet behind.
I wonder if this is
a sign of trust or
My mother used to leave my sister
home with me to watch over her.
One day, the dusty smoke alarm
went off. The house was
blurry with its screams, her cries.
I couldn’t reach high enough to
open it. This is what my parents told
the acupuncturists. They could sing
to the parts I couldn’t touch
while monks walked around
our living room with pitchers
full of water. I asked them to stop
the nightmares. Last week,
I tried to hang myself
with my phone charger.
They tell me to remove the nails
from the walls, to fill in
the holes. Gaps between Sincerely
and my mother’s name.
It’s been years since she’s talked
to her parents. Some things never
change. My father once circled the land
on a map where we’d buy the house.
High enough to surface in floods,
low enough to avoid landslides.
But in earthquake country, each home loses
its chimney. Bricks unzip themselves
We could paint walls, uproot weeds.
Line holes with plastic.
Windows expand within themselves,
silently. My mother passed me
masking tape, the hem of her shirt
rising over her melon belly.
Magritte painted a cigar. That is all
we have left. Our eyes always move
one direction at a time.
This is how things are forgotten
or avoided. The truth is
when they write how are you
they don’t really want to know
unless it’s good.
Settle down where windows can
shatter at any given moment.
Walls can crumble.
Each unopened envelope could be
a natural disaster.
Does it matter if I can write.
Does it matter if I am in a tea shop.
If there is really a man or just a memory.
My father tells me
to stir honey into his tea.
Asks for more.
A prick in the foot, a tooth goes
A bird sings for love, but the bird