One on Each Shoulder


on the train ride home
sleeping children
with blue and yellow rods

in the middle
a protective father

who took both his son
and daughter




Tijua races to the seashore where his uncles and brothers gather in net by the waning sun. He kicks his feet in the low tide and watches. The women in the village whisper, “Monsoon, monsoon,” in voices full of worry and fear. They dry what food they can and carry home extra pieces of wood from the mill, which they must walk miles for since few have oxen or horses, to prop up houses tilted by last year’s storm.

The fishermen drag only seaweed to shore. Given unspoken permission, Tijua runs to Uncle Jie’s hip to help haul in the easy catch. He smiles up at a weathered face, bronzed like the old kettle boiling tea at home. Tijua knows his family will gather around it soon to spin colorful, wondrous stories. He shivers in delight as rope stings his hands, anticipating dreams upon dreams, while the dark outside batters to be let in and listen.

Pretty Bow

If I tied a string to my wrist
Weighed down by a silver charm
And cast off the other end into the ocean
Would I be robbed by a dolphin’s nosy poke
Or tango with the eight arms of a great octopus?
Would I be nibbled at by the lionfish
Or find myself wedged between the pink polyps of coral?
I throw my lure and three vibration afterwards, pull.
Out of the ocean rises a clam’s shell, knotted in a pretty bow:

The mermaids have good taste.