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Voicemails from my mother

By Cynthia Miller

An old story, one you know:

Once a snake ate my cat so

my second brother killed it

dead and made snake ball

soup for the whole family.

Maybe next time our table

will be bigger. Next time,

a snake big enough to feed

the street. Remember, I taught

you which palms to drink from,

how to pinch thin moons of dough

around the filling. I am running

out of time to tell you everything.

I can’t for the life of me remember

what I called to say. Don’t be stupid,

no one died of homesickness.

Sayang, what a waste a one way ticket

would be. I’m sorry if I

woke you again. Sayang, everything

here tastes different, always fish fried

in black oil and Maggi Magic Sarap.

Missy brought her youngest daughter

to lunch today – you know Ysabel,

the one at Yale – she reminded me

of you, or perhaps you are still that way.

I thought I’d spend a year here

but fruit trees take a year to yield anything.

I’m going out to the field today.

The light is doing something new

and it’s time for planting.

Sayang, everything that’s dead is just fertilizer.

All I need I can carry in my hands.

I liked me best when I chose to leave.

What I took with me, who I left,

there at the border,

squinting a little, raising a hand.

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