Follow me, I said to Katherine and took her
to see the nameless trees whose green hairy buds
had exploded into a thousand shredded handkerchiefs,
a fanfare of waving white silks and bosomy perfume
—no, perfumey bosoms—with loose petals
scumbling two buildings over. Come see what I’ve seen,
come tell me what I’ve seen, I guess I was saying,
but she didn’t know the names of these trees either.
I jitter about the apartment, lentils and dried twigs
of wakame underfoot. I just read Battle Hymn
of the Tiger Mother and can’t stop thinking
how I was not even close to being a child prodigy,
but if my mother had driven me so I surely would
have made good on those threats to kill myself.
The room where I write is the color of storms.
I’ve never looked that good in gray, despite
fashion magazines’ praise of tweed pencil skirts.
Of my twenty-one black dresses, I bought only one
new, a full-length gown on the occasion of almost
meeting Oprah as she breezed through downtown Atlanta,
flashbulbs illuminating her aura. In Chengdu I called
my apartment a concrete box, each wall painted
powder blue, chalky copies of the clear sky
so rarely seen in that valley of coal-sloughed clouds.
My apartment in Blacksburg is also cubical
and concrete. I painted my bedroom Spring Leaf
or Grass Blade or whatever the paint chip
announced itself as. Now clouds scrim over the sun,
turning my study’s gray walls dull, then electric.
I have learned to love the southern light that shears
through my pop yellow kitchen and my foyer’s deep red.
Here too is the incandescent welcome of a silk scrap rug
I stitched myself.