After the redguards marched into Saigon
my father fled and left a box of
letters written in a cursive hand
beside the table where grandmother
kept her dentures.
In Minnesota I would sometimes
catch him writing them again,
bent over the
oak table with its third leg
propped up by a jar of
His fingers would circle around
the handle of the brush. Horsehair lush
and blackened by the ink pot.
The paper crumpling, folding underneath
the weight of all those foreign words.
They were for mother,
who was always sleeping
in some lamplit corner
of the city. The city on the postcard
and in the picture frame.
Sometimes father would press my curls
against his fingers and
remember. My hair jet black and
ink leaving no trace.
My father did that often,
using his hands to
close up times and distances.
The maps and scrolls
The letter pressed delicately
against the envelope.
He would write mother’s name with
a sharp reed emerging from the a.
The vowels held together
in between his heavy fingers,
his margin lines, arthritic,
curved and shaking.
In Minnesota I write letters
onto your pale forearm.
Blades of grass brush against your skin
like curled accents. Your lips remind me
of the pale dot sometimes floating
slight above an o. I try to hold your
shiver in my fingers, hold in them
the slipping syllables
of your tongue.
A recluse spider crawls up the curve of
your thumb. You hold it up in front of you
and smile. Its spindle limbs combing
the border of your skin. The maps traced out
by spinnerets in ink. The ink made out of reeds and curls
like waves breaking onto the shores
To hold you on that boundary line again.
Between the horsehair of the brush
and the old shoreline smell of crinkled paper.
Between the redguards
and the lapping coast.
Between my mother’s curls and mine,
the waves of my curls breaking against yours,
our curls jet black and spilling out onto the grass,
writing the earth and Saigon