I was being reckless
asking about everything
there was no story
I did not want to hear
no detail too insignificant

you were being cautious
uncertain of my intent
wary of where
the questions would lead

we spoke for hours
and I started asking
fewer and fewer questions
as you began adding
more and more details

a mere two days later
it took only one question
to begin a meandering tale
spanning many years and countries
that ended with us both sitting here
silent and in tears

tell me how

how do I tell
a mother
that the death of her child
was not her fault?

how do I tell
a surviving mother
that the death of her child
during a period of hardship
was not her fault?

how do I tell
a survivor of genocide
that the death of her child
during that period of
hunger and hardship
and heartbreak
was not her fault?

how do I tell
my mom
that my sister’s death
was not her fault?

would she even
hear me?

grow up

I have never been
the kind of girl
to give much thought
to marriage
or having children
or growing old with someone

but if I should ever
meet and fall in love
with that kind of girl
we should be able to
do much more
than just think
about those things


sun’s not up yet
but I am
you’re still sleeping
but I’m not

you’re breathing
deep restful breaths
I’m breathing
deeply through my mouth

trying to get
a little bit healthier
trying to get
a few feet higher

sun’s coming up
as I’m reaching the peak
the valley below
still covered in fog

you’re waking up
buried in blankets
I’m waking up
on top of the world


lunch date

I have asked you out before
to lunch or dinner
but always halfheartedly
quietly relieved when you
reject my invitations
secretly glad for the
continued distance.

for years we have been
perfecting this ritual
of casual offers
followed by polite refusals
but I am getting too old
and too hungry
to find nourishment
in these empty acts.

so I am no longer asking
but am instead telling you
we are starting a tradition
lunch, once a week
a different restaurant each time
you bring him
your husband of fifty years
and I’ll bring her
my sister of thirty three
and we will figure out how
to again have meals as
a family.


for the longest time
I thought you guys
were speaking Hmong
when you called
each other “Nee”
that it was a term
of endearment
passed down
full of meaning
like the stitches
your grandmothers
on skirts and shirts
and quilts and pillows

then I learned the truth:
that you were just
being cute
and a little lazy