She raised me on one knife. A heavy butcher's tool
that crushed bones; there was much to break in exile.
The only light from a rectangular window was blocked
by a staircase, our ear to the comings and goings of the elders
who lived above us. At dawn, they coughed up phlegm
across the balcony, over our sleeping heads. They mumbled
their prayers all day, unflaggingly accumulating merit
in hope for future lives. Almost every night she made noodles,
she julienned beef – which was buffalo – she never mistook
her fingers for the meat we were to eat. Every meal
was a statement of her memory. Every night I sat
as she drank tea and recalled the day spent apart. Among
my many tools is a knife for bread, a knife for meat,
a knife for vegetables and a knife for everything. They bide time,
attempting to make happiness. My knives seek my skin.
When I bleed, I think of her. How she would take my finger
into her mouth, and would tell me not to mistake a knife's competence
for knowledge. That it does not have a heart. Every now and then
when the day has a sore ankle, I imagine she will come home.
I brew her special tea, I warm her cup. I wait for the door to open.