I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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Chinese New Year in Philadelphia, Thanksgiving in Mexico, Passover in prison
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
The scar in the turf in front of her headstone has long since healed. Her death date was blank at her funeral, reflecting our disbelief. It now reads, Sept. 11, 2010. Beside that is another blank for my father.
You can hardly remember now how you would pull out the ribbons she weaved through your hair, launching them into the wind as you pedaled faster on your bike. You have left that girl behind. You believe in the power of ribbons and roses now. You are a woman.
Stride from the crowd to seize the president’s arm before another roll of paper towels sails away. Thunder Spanish obscenities in his face. Banish him to a roofless rainstorm in Utuado, so he unravels, one soaked sheet after another, till there is nothing left but his cardboard heart.
I pretended to be busy on my computer until she leaned so close to me I had to sit back and look up. She had my attention now. She smiled with one side of her mouth. “That was my mom,” she said. “Fucking Wicked Witch of the West.”
My father tells me about the ghosts. He tells me about lying on his stomach in a trench and falling asleep and hearing the voice of a friend who had just been killed shouting, “Brina, look out!”
I was working in the yard, raking out the sunny patch where I plant tomatoes and cucumbers, and feeling the pot gummy I’d eaten a half hour ago start to come on, announced by an uneasy self-consciousness and a brightening little buzz.
I used my legs and heart as if I would
gladly use them up for this,
to touch him again in this life