I see a small light
green and glowing.
It moves from side to side
like the sagelampu I carried
for you, Mama.
You said,
“Quick get the lamp, Tanouesan has a high fever.“
I held the lamp in front of us and the light
would zig zag along the dirt path
in rhythm with our footfalls.
Your healing cups would clink in time
with the crunch of dirt and small stones under our feet.
We were alone
except for frogs croaking in the dark
and the iridescent
buzzing along with us.

Jean Toyama

are your companions in life–
your memories—
that can spring out of nowhere.
Take you to a childhood afternoon
or light a mountain trail
you once walked–
the same light attenuated by bamboo,
swaying in the wind’s coming–
where a fall off the precipice
meant no returning
to the porch shaded
by the jacaranda.
Or, a sudden face
you had not thought of in years
may flash before you,
young as you saw it last,
but wouldn’t recognize, today.

They take your hands;
never let them go.
They make no neat patterns in your mind.
They may play tricks
or impress upon you
a longing
for the times she wore
the water-lily dress
that floated around her in a cloud,
cupped the white ginger in her hands,
or dreamed of banquets
when she no longer could eat.
Even that, once more.

Warm or chilling,
they stay with you,
like a quiet child might,
or a noisy one,
but always at your side without apology
waiting to take you down
the street you ran on
with your sad old dog
or the wobbly bicycle wheel
you rolled with a stick
in the spindle of summer
that unraveled the threads of your life.
They bring up matters
that send sentimental tears
down your cheeks;
feed into your old heartaches.
And oftentimes, in your recollections,
you pass them off
to your children
without ever meaning to be cruel.

One teacha asked me if I wanted fo be his teacha’s aide fo Biology class.
My classmates said was good fo be one teacha’s aide
cuz you just help and das it.
Not like you one student in class and gotta do class work.
Was my senior year and I had most of da credits fo graduate
so I decided fo be his teacha’s aide.

I ran errands fo him and did stuffs like enter grades into his grade book.
Layda on, he told me dat dea was going be one teacha fo replace him
cuz he got one nodda job.

Da new teacha was one lady who look like she just graduated college.
One day, she brought one glass tank wit white mice inside.
She had to leave fo get someting, and I was in charge of da class.

Everybody was studying, so I looked inside da tank.
I saw one mouse go by da odda mouse.
Look like da mouse was pulling off da odda mouse’s hairs.
I dunno if dis normal. I wanted da pulling fo stop,
so I started poking da mouse wit one stick.
Da mouse neva stop, so I kept poking um.

Everybody gathered around da tank.
Layda, da mouse finally stopped pulling.
I was still holding da stick.
I shoulda told everybody fo go back to dea desks, but I neva.
I wanted fo make sure da mouse neva pick on da odda mouse again.
I kept poking.
Da mouse’s head started fo twitch.

Wen da teacha came back, everybody went back to dea desks.
She asked da class wat happened.
Everybody looked at me and neva say nothing.

She started da lesson as I looked inside da tank.
Why da mouse gotta keep twitching laidat?
I hoped da mouse would stop twitching next class
but it neva.

Every class, I look da tank and wish I neva do wat I did.
Da teacha saw da mouse,
and I no can look her in da eye
wen she asked me wat happened.

—Ann Inoshita

What to give you?

The black bird or the perfect arc
it made while flying upward over

green cypress reminding me of
Roman coliseums and grander things

than this three story walk-up.
Perhaps a moment, which expanded

and breathed when I saw
fragile translucent star blossoms

a field of them blanketing the lawn
that one day will be our home.

And I wasn't afraid.
A song, I'll give you a song

to sing to the rocks we will use
to fill that defunct septic tank.

They'll carry that tune to the
wooden beams of our future,

hammered together by hands that pray
with gratitude for all we do not know.

-Christy Passion

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