by Natalie Linh Bolderston

We always go where there are graves. / When she dies of pneumonia / they drop three coins in her mouth / bury her under the house in Xiamen. / For days after / her son kisses the floor / prays for new palms to pray with / searches for an eyelash / a used toothpick / a blood-tipped sewing needle / some sign that she lived. / As if he was born to mourn / the years she cannot touch / he waits for her ghost / to return unwinged / but the night will not open its mouth. / Years later / soldiers come for the house. / He digs the floor with his hands / holds her ribs to his cheek / and sets her alight in a barrel. / When she is small enough / to cup in his hands / he takes her to a temple in the mountains. / When some unholy road / rattles her picture from the wall / shakes every box soulless / he finds her a dust road mausoleum / fits the sun around her photograph / and leaves for Sóc Trăng. / From the highest shelf / she hears him / singing a song she cannot understand / with his halved tongue.