In his dream, my brother saw grandfather
as pale as morning, casually walking
down the stairway as if he had lived
through those years of war and hunger.
His beard was white, coarse as goat hair.
He complained that he couldn't sleep,
all night, dreaming of my mother's death—
the timid farm girl who married his oldest son,
who gave him thirteen grandchildren,
enough grandsons to carry on his name—
he dreamed she died alone. And heartbroken now
he wanted to see her, to speak with her,
to gather the wind scattered years:
have the years and have you children
been kind to her? Oh, bring her flowers, will you?
My brother brought my mother
early that morning white chrysanthemums.
We slept on the floor, our bones cushioned
with cardboard. Behind the wall, someone
was humming a lullaby. I felt the hardwood tremble,
my mother's shoulder quivering
against my back, the sound of tears
flooding her breaths as she quietly cursed
the god she failed to know. I did not think
as I reached into darkness, guiding a love infused
in fingertips, as I wrapped my arms
around her waist. The way a man does.
I did not think how the wind stopped hissing
through the cracked window, or how
she softly exhaled as I pulled closer knowing
this was not right: a boy reaching out
and into the shell of a husband. I only knew
the warmth spreading between us,
that the wings on her shoulders
were really my hands.