random

this nightly game I play
with words is not unlike
the challenge of piecing
together a jigsaw puzzle

all the parts interlocking
just so that an image forms
from the chaotic jumble
of straight and curvy edges

but unlike those numbered
boxes of broken up bits
i never know how many
it will take

sharp memories

the persistent ones
of you deep in thought
from those encounters
few and far between

the steady knocking
of skin wrapped knuckle
against the underside
of a wooden table

the thumb and forefinger
softly absently strumming
at the corner of lower lip
to a silent melody

the slim sinewy arms
curled around knees
elevated by bare feet
resting on sofa cushion

always the krop umpel eyes
focused in the distance
that sooner or later returned
to meet my rapt gaze

strength of attraction

our dryer door would not close
the plastic lock had broken from brittleness

we bought it used twenty years ago
with a washer from a laundromat
metal giants made to withstand abuse
at four quarters and forty minute runs

my father tried to pull it shut
with bungie cord and hooks
wrapped around the doorknob
and brackets along the back wall

but force can only lead to strain

so i substituted his hooks and cord
with a small and strong magnet
placed where a tiny phillips screwhead
inside the door, kisses the steel frame

raveled

i found a new krama
in a bag beneath old shirts

a souvenir from my first trip
to cambodia over ten years ago

the edges are fringed
with unfinished threads

that i know will unravel
until they twist and tangle

so i tie a series of knots
and pretend that is better

tb skin test

she wasn’t wrong
it did feel like a bee sting
a slight pinch
where the point went in
and it looked like a bee sting
the way the skin reddened
and swelled roundly
in response to the ppd
and my fingers have been
drawn to the wheal
so like a bee sting’s

but instead of constantly
wildly scratching at it
with no care
for how it might grow
i only sometimes
lightly, absently rub
hoping the firm bump
will not widen
before she measures it
in the morning

oral histories

I was looking for a cassette tape

the one where I am learning
to repeat the alphabet
after my father

and where one older brother is yelling
out encouragements to me
to pull the hair of another
even older brother

I thought it was in the black
dust-topped, snapped-together
cardboard box perched atop my bookcase

but that only contained:
the Lion King soundtrack
one Chinese artists mixtape
a radio top 40 countdown
and my first, forgotten
oral history interview of
my mother, from 1994

I had wanted to hear
some words from my past
and instead found stories
from a time before that

always older

when i was a child
they always spoke of you

as being younger
than C- and older than O-

so i imagined you as older
because they were older

and as they aged
in my mind, so did you

graduating from your teens
into your twenties and beyond

so it wasn’t until last year’s talks
with mom, that it finally sunk in

that at thirty three, i was already
three times as old as you were

when they lost you, years before
you had a chance to become a teen

affirmation

chaah? chaah! chaah.
i have a problem with chaah,
not the idea, just the word
the feminine gendered “yes”
that i was taught to use
the way my brothers were
instructed to say bhaat

as many times as i’ve spoken it,
saying chaah never became
second nature, the way it
was supposed to tumble out
in response to questions and
statements and… everything else

instead, there is hesitation
a moment’s consideration
a weighing of its necessity
before i retreat to using less
traditional, formal, polite
english versions like “yes”
and “yea” and “yep” or the
universal “huh?” and “uh huh”

chaah reminds me too much
of a little two-year-old girl
her toddler’s voice imprinted
on a scratchy audio cassette
answering her proud father
each time he calls her name
T-… T-… T-…
chaah. chaah. chaah.

it is the verbal reminder
of promises unkept