In English my mother’s broken foot means “broken.”
The clarity spelled in “torn ligaments” upon
“displaced metatarsal fracture.”
In one word you know the truth.
In any other language you forget
what you’ve memorized.
The coroner’s knife laying borders
on site. The human heart
a constant geography. Bare skin
still bearing. My mother
cradling the broken bearing
well through the night. An apology
disassembling in the one true garden.
When the sun finally rises
my eyes darken at the intersection
my living memories on the edge of a clearing.
A lemongrass hall. The center of the arch.
The wind chasing away
every piece of death
including the assertion
Now in a new tongue
a young bird to counter-translate
all I know. Congeries of elegies defined
by the length of rice grains.
The first turn-of-phrase to go
“Dream far from the body.”
The next a short string of pain made to divide
“Forgive the forbidden.” The winged messenger
toiling in a yielding note
collecting and receding. All my dreams
standing in the wispy grass. My small desire
to break the perching foot
with the yard wide enough to hide us.
Still from Mother Ghosting - Serena Chopra
ON PRAISING THE LIVER
I dip my mother’s ribs in the delicious water.
The perils of this translation lost in the mountains
I crossed to get here
joined by herds of saola swelling through the forest.
Overhead a drowsy river of hawks sweeping in
for the open burial.
As if caught in a bad story I befriend the renegade
whose shadow belongs to me and to the monkeys
who’ve come out
to take over this joyous path. They descend slowly
into the springs floating on their backs forming a ring
around the stone-prized liver.
I welcome them and assign us names to protect
the colony we have created from my divided grief.
Then I wade into the bath
this time with mother’s arms and we hold each other
tightly hiding deep in the steam. I look onto the map
of her darkening liver
to find the end times blurring hastily into honey
the holes in our eyes sealing up and our mouths opening
to drink our sweet luck
my thigh aching for a stretch my heel snipped
the saola performing migration in loose script.
Among the tired trees
red-bellied squirrels squirming in their nests
midday songs coming over the crest and for a moment
the air suspending me
sewing onto mother’s ear the night of our lives
the winged lords laughing at us from a safe distance.
We could rule like this.
Merciful mother with ancient stamina lathering
the side of her crown black starry melodious green.
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