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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

of death.

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

Still from Mother Ghosting - Serena Chopra


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.

return to ISSUE THREE

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