So little wind to go around.
The whole family sleeps on bamboo mats.
Their eyelids yield,
flicker shut like broken light bulbs.
Mosquitoes burn a hole
in your skin to take blood.
There are no clocks to tell the time.
And tell me the part that I hope is not true:
How your brother reaches toward you
as he would for bread because the supper
is not enough.
You are beautiful.
You are becoming a round thing
and he yearns to touch your belly. He reaches
to enter you. From half sleep
you can not decipher copper pots from his face.
You want to run or sound out,
but instead, you count the heads of your younger
brothers and sisters and count
their breathing, fingers tapping your throat.
And you thought it would not
have happened had there been more
food, had the night been a cool plate
of something else to offer.
Mother, I will be born in fifteen years.
And after that I will hear
the voices of my family recounting
our history. We come from a dynasty
of vanity and ruin, says one uncle.
We are here like fig trees, to tend
to our own solitude, says another.
I have stopped listening.
“Hearsay” was originally published in Tamaqua, Winter 1997, Vol. 6, Issue 2, and reprinted in Half-Lit Houses (Four Way Books, 2004).