I once was the secret friend of a girl in fifth grade. We’d sit together in the gym and play, she’d tell me ghost stories and I’d run after her in tag. But that was only in after-school. When she saw me in the daytime, when the cliques of other girls turned their noses up at me, she pretended not to know me. In those days, I thought that was something I had to accept and felt so lonely. I still struggle with liking myself as an adult, but no matter how lonely I feel, I’m never going to accept a friendship that erodes me again.



Warm sunshine like a cloak of home lays along my balcony window
The sky has never looked so blue and I forget the snows of days past
It must be impossible for the world to be anything but green
Nothing of sadness or heartache is nurtured here
The old is stripped away, bad memories plucked and crushed
I sing headily with the waters of Lethe, and sip until I am full

The Nature of Trust

The echoes of thoughts come back to me from days, weeks, months ago. My head knows words spit in anger are not to be trusted, that the source of bitterness from others is mostly always a misunderstanding, but my heart still carries the burden and hangs a shadow over my eyes. What secrets and jealousies lurk under the smile of an acquaintance, what derision and self-importance? Broken trust in even one you took in confidence means loss of trust in the world.


When I was a little girl
My greatest sin was leaving
A kitten in the rain
Abandoned and alone, crawling along
the pavement, kneeling at my feet
Too afraid
To cuddle up to me

I reached down to stroke it
And it gratefully wiped itself dry on my jeans
Purring all the while

Want to keep it, I conferred with my sisters
Could not keep it, agreed with my sisters
And left it on the other side of the road
Crying after us


Sick alone and suddenly I’m reminded of my mother picking me up in junior high and holding my feverish hand walking me to the doctor’s, grandmother’s homemade congee steaming in the porcelain bowl, her mouth blowing a spoonful to cool, my grandfather putting his cheek to mine to deduce whether the cough that rattles me is from a common cold or the dreaded flu, nights of vomiting and lying in bed ill and never having to get up to change the waste bin, the sour smell never there for long, chased out, and quiet murmurs trickling in that check on me in bed, my bedroom door easing closed before I could even catch a glimpse of the family guard whose shift it was today, in the days when I didn’t ask to know who nursed me, sure there would always be someone on the other side.


On the tree outside, there is a bud that has been sleeping all season. Through the rains and the scorching days, past the bloom of daffodils and the fallen maple leaves. The autumn wind gusts in, billowing great folds of ochre and red. She leaves a train of white in her departure and I stand alone, with only the mist of my own breath as company, when the bud blooms. Who do you greet? I think sadly, this delicate blossom that will never meet its sisters or brothers, the bee or butterfly that promises immortality in its offspring. The sun is kind today and melts the snow, until it sits like spring dew upon the flower petals. They wink like secrets on that flower that opens so bravely, and I think a thought so powerful, I must shatter the winter stillness: “Ah, you’ve met me.” And it is such an easy thing, to smile.


The winds will blow warm again and the sun cast long shadows. This winter is not eternal. Do not let it sap you of hope or honor, tenderness of heart, or the forgiveness that can undo all the wickedness you have done. Scorch the earth, or salt the soil of your soul. Wither it and despise it, but know it can be healed. For the spring is coming again, and when you believe in it, it shall come.


On moonlit nights I stare into the dark and the stars I cannot see in the city and wonder about the woman, who so long ago, was my ancestor. Did she stare at those stars in the countryside of Canton and find them hopeful, or mocking of her life, pulled low by poverty and disease, by a family broken into pieces too jagged and shattered to shift and put together again? I have tried to put those pieces so they are whole, pressed my thumb against the jagged edges praying to blunt their sharpness, but my fingers bleed in erose tragedy. The voices around me mock my ineptitude, my sorrow, and my thoughts. But I think of that woman of long ago and wonder if she would have understood me. I think of that woman sitting below that vastness of space and think of the peace coming to her – as she realizes that she is but a small piece of tapestry in a greater world full of joyous things – and for a while, I too, believe.


You who share my blood but not my face
And only have my thoughts intermittently
Like Venn diagrams with that space of sameness
We who sprung from the same root and tree
And flowered and bore fruit so differently
What matters is that you halve my sorrow
And I know the barbs you spit are not sprung
From hate of me
But our shared frustration that life should be:

Our mother taught us not to say those words
Yet, I am glad to have you
Yet, I am glad to know you

I Saw

I saw a strange bird on the water
Like a gray bit of dandelion tuft
Strayed from the stem and blown far away
To the deepest part of the woods
Where the light pries in small, weak webs

I saw a strange man on the street
Like a skeleton key
Thrown rusted away in a drawer
To the farthest reaches of the city
Where he has forgotten his own, particular use

I saw myself in a mirror
Like a defeated old crone
Bent low by selfish worries and regret
To the nadir of existence and childhood
Where there is no beginnings, only ends

I saw many things, but took only some to heart;
Others, I denied and buried
And others, I sowed