Story for the Salt

Emily Zhang

2015 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

Stooped over the sink like the arm
of a salt-marsh tree, suds meditating

in her palms, Ma swears this is true— 
that all humans can live to be two hundred,

but we choose not to— 
that would require sitting in a giant glass bottle,

reeling to a god that takes what a god gets,
all bodiless boding. In the winter Ma leaves

a cardboard box at the lip of a river. The end
of the day, she weeps and washes plates that tilt

on their axes like this world is flooding
and doesn’t know its own weight.

Ma dips her hands in the sink and says
the most difficult thing: that these hands

are her hands. The bare kitchen tile too
much like a cold forehead. She was a mother

until she was weary, Ma tries to explain,
past tense curled in her throat, the waves of her

world rolling into her rolling into me.

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