Essays    Reportage    Marginalia    Interviews    Poetry    Fiction    Videos    Everything   
Life Cycle of the Domestic Silkworm, or Grandmother’s Mulberries

Of my heart, / my eyes. I stole your bifocals and we crashed into /
the kitchen table and all you could see was sunlight.

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday, poetry
August 2, 2022

Seven years old and you taught me to swear like a sailor.
How Mom trembled as turtle eggs, turtle eggs poured from my
eager mouth like the Niagara you visited
for your sixty-fifth birthday.
Down to a trickle. I was always quiet when you laughed,
wanting to hear that full-bellied roar.
I drew you with a mane of fire.
Ms. Biellman told me, Your grandmother can’t have that hair color,
and oh, how you laughed when I whirled through the door
in a rage, static sending my own locks up in sparks.
How you said, You only need to get the curls right.
How I no longer remember the words.

The floor has always been lava with you.
Each creaking floorboard—thin basalt
like the lid over a simmering pot of hot milk. Each morning,
we would split a glass. White mustaches. Instead of rinsing,
feeding the rest
to your flowers. Say, They’ll grow along with you. How you marked
the walls in dashes and dates. Pencil over plaster. One-fifty
centimeters. One-fifty-five. One-sixty.
The day I surpassed you, we danced. Hands on hips,
swaying to “Little Apple” by Chopstick Brothers,
letting me call you my small apple. Of my heart,
my eyes. I stole your bifocals and we crashed into
the kitchen table and all you could see was sunlight.

You never called it stealing. Just borrowing.
They won’t miss the leaves. You plucked thick mulberries
from the west neighbor’s whimpering tree.
Small hands plunged under a fountain. Violet bursting
across our tongues. Silkworms, wriggling in a cardboard
box. I’ll make you a dress of silk. The rattle of a Danish cookie tin
and spools of thread and needles and eyes
I would find for you, without fail.
When the silkworms were ready, you began to boil
their cocoons. When I cried, you set the rest free.
The moths kissed our noses in thanks. Fleeing
into the sunset. See? You said. Just borrowing.

Pizza is the first and only word you’ve learned to say
in English. It is when I am crying over my first boyfriend
that you shout through the phone, PIZZA.
Should get her some, you say
to Mom. Your flower-print dress,
sliding in and out of view as you aim the camera at your nose
and chin and eyebrows, if only to coax the thin line
of my lips into something softer, fuller.
Chrysanthemums bloom across your shoulders
like the boxed tea you used to pour when my throat ran
red with nightmares. And, darling, drink some Vita.
(And this is how I love you.) And pizza—always pizza.