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ISSUE:  Winter 1982
When I lift a bar of soap to my face
it is winter.
They drag a pig to its slaughter,
empty its intestines in the river,
they fill them with blood
thickened with rice, barley, and spice.
From scraps, they make soap.

Then it is summer.
Always there is a gray chunk of soap
by the wash basin, on the ledge of verandah.
The child pours water from a dipper
onto her father’s soiled hands,
a towel across her shoulder.
When the soap slips,
she learns the quickness of her eyes.
Mother’s wisdom:
soap and water wash away everything
except the color of one’s skin.

Like customs, children die.
Who will pour water for us?
Whom will we tell of wisdom?
We have no land, no pig, no river,
no verandah, no children.
Inside the rented, windowless bathroom,
the fan hums, and by the lamp’s eternal season
I hear a pig cry inside a bar of soap.
Tears which cannot find their way to my eyes
I shake off my hand.


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