Some days, I sail on an empty boat to a country I don’t know.
With my navy-blue passport, I can go anywhere.
This breaks my heart. I can be anywhere, and everywhere
I left carries on without me.
In California, the drought whispers to the water:
Come back. The San Andreas Fault creases like the fate
line in my palm. The one that’s vertical. The one
that breaks at my wrist. The Santa Cruz Mountains
from my childhood do not touch
the coast they pine for. Snow crowns
only their highest ridges.
I have always cherished this land that was not
mine. I have always cherished this landmine.
In Los Altos, my mother lives alone in a small studio
efficiency. Every day she wakes up on a bed
I used to sleep in. I imagine her drinking coffee,
opening her laptop and searching the same websites
for a job. I imagine her boiling sweet potatoes
alone, dreading dusk light and another wasted day.
In 1999, my mother had a malignant tumor removed
from her leg. In the hospital room,
I remember staring at the needle
in her arm. At twelve, I promised
I’d be good,
I’d believe in God
if she survived. Those days, my mother said she wanted
to die. The words always under her breath
but audible. She survived. She survived.
In Sunnyvale, my father lives alone in a three-story townhouse.
Every day, he tries to lift the garage door whose sensors
have stopped working.
Every day, he tries to repair the faucets, the showerheads,
the washing machine
with his own hands. To fix
this would cost too much, he says. Health
insurance costs too much, he says.
On Sundays he goes to the free health clinic at Stanford.
Every day, he takes medication for his maladies.
His heart, pumping the blood too slow. His lungs, the color
of storms and ashes. How long has this house
been without electricity? How long will he long
for what’s absent?
Together, the three of us survived the passage here.
Apart now, the three of us
are each alone. That is the only thing left we have
You are still young, they tell me. You are still young.
It is spring. It is summer. It is fall. The nation votes
for the wound to keep gushing.
I broke my hospital-room promises to God.
I am not good. I do not believe. Love has a way
of not existing.
Some days, I recall where my ancestors were buried—
by a seaside city, near a smooth gray lake, its surface flat
like a mirror. I visited this lake once, when I was fifteen.
Mist rose from the cliffside temples, making everything sad
In my dream I was on my knees at the cemetery
in Hangzhou. I carried barren offerings: stony fruit,
crabapples hard as bone. I could not face the headstones
because I could not admit: Your line ends here,
with me, my mother’s only child. Your bloodline ends
with my fate line, my parched San Andreas,
my fault, a line
from my imperfect poem.