We are trying to make it across the river.

We burn small animals on the deck

with white cloth and incense. Violence

in the name of peace. Our tongues break off

inside each other. Our thousand hearts hung on

low branches. Nothing is working. Our reflection

in the water, a starved devil. All brittle hair

and knobby knees. You tell yourself

you’re doing well.

 

It’s the same story. You try to leave something

behind, say, Silly mother, I will not need

your painted eggs where I am going,

Or, Foolish bride, I won’t need your

embroidered kerchief on my hero’s journey.”

By the end, their gift is the only thing

that binds us to this world.

 

When the traveling refuses to end

when it seems impossible that you

will ever arrive, like a cold, permanent fire,

time becomes visible then stops its passage.

You’re here, you cannot leave.

Grasping at blades of smoke

you begin to guess

the name of this new country.