I tossed an echo across the river and watched it fall at your feet. You scooped it up with your small hands and pressed it against your ear. It was a whisper of yours I’d saved from years ago My darling if I love you let me love you. I watched you quiver at the croak in your voice, watched you place the echo into the river, watched you watching the echo as it slipped around the bend.
Between us it was
not love, but it was sweet
and I am thankful.
She opened her palm
and found the ink
still there, some dying
The cats violin their screeches into the night. I am both afraid and sad for them but the fear always wins and so I do not leave my bedroom to hold them or offer them dishes of warm milk. Who even knows if these jungle cats like milk I’ve only ever seen them suck at the pits of the magenta colored fruit that falls in my yard. There is rain enough for the thirstiest cats but hunger tightens their skin and dull orange stripes of fur run parallel to protruding ribs. I pass them as I walk to class. Once, I made the mistake of offering a slice of mango and now dozens of them follow me desperate for another act of accidental kindness. I lead them like a stony messiah who neither loves or abhors them enough to show them much attention. They follow me all the same, scattering at the forest’s edge, so silent that it is only in turning back that I even notice they are gone.
This morning, my bathroom walls were covered in ants. They’d crawled in through a small hole by the toilet. And even as the breathing mosaic hanging against the wall had swollen to what must have been thousands, a small thread of straggling ants could still be seen moving through the hole, desperate to join the others.
First fear, then marvel. I closed the door and stood in the center of the room. It felt like I was standing inside a heartbeat. The ants were in constant motion, but even as I strained to hear the stomping of their feet, I found silence, disturbed only by my heavy breathing.
Why had they come here? Why today, not yesterday or any number of days before? Did they send scouts was there some Lewis or Clark amongst their ranks? Was this new place what they’d hoped it would be? Did they know I was there and did they know I would soon kill them? What language does an ant speak to another ant when it realizes it will die?
I thought about these things as I went in search of the forest bug spray I’d packed before moving to Thailand. I’d hardly used it, finding no desire to poison the random ants and moths and beetles I’d previously found in my home. Kindness like that is easy and requires little of us—the moth hardly bothers and the handful of ants is easy to step around. But something like a wall of ants requires a type of mercy that is inconvenient and difficult to offer. Since first seeing them even as I thought they were beautiful, I knew that I would have to kill them.
When I finally did kill them, I expected they’d topple from the walls, that their bodies would unravel like loose string. But not a one fell. They stuck to the walls and nothing had changed except now the room felt like it was holding its breath. After a beat, I grabbed the shower head and sprayed them until they fell, rolling slowly into the drain. After cleaning up, I left, and couldn’t shake the realization that I was now someone who had killed thousands of things.
I wanted to skip stones like the other kids but never learned the soullessness of inanimate objects so I tucked them into my coat pockets instead thinking they’d be warmer there. In those days, I couldn’t kill flies either or not sleep with all my stuffed animals for fear of leaving someone out. I knew what it meant to hurt deeply and assumed that all other things knew what this felt like, too.
Once, I saw a boy scoop up a fallen baby bird and put it in a stranger’s mailbox. He and his friends walked away pretending not to hear its crying but I knew they heard it. I saw them each turn back once, twice and I could see the remorse in their eyes. I watched the mother zoom across the yard, calling to the lost part of herself.
I knew what it felt like to drown at the hands of a force whose language you could not interpret,so I stood transfixed, understanding. But I could not help and left in tears.
I wonder if at night you still feel the small hook of me digging into your wrists like I feel the small hook of you. I feel your tossings and I feel your turnings and I wonder if they aren’t just calls across the deep beckoning me back to you. I wonder if social grace is the only thing keeping my wrists at my side when so clearly they long to be pulled into whatever sphere you might this night be occupying.
In dreaming, the sun
is just a bloom in an old
This is certainly a throwback.
For once, I am not
just some whisper desperately
weaving through the void.