my mother would tell me,
“child, put on your shoes,
and close the door behind you,”
as if her biggest fear
was being left alone in dark spaces
in her socks.
checking the door
once, twice, and once more
(just in case)
became child’s play,
even if i were inept at being young.
but i cannot check
in the way a pawn does a king,
because i am terrified
of trapping myself in an endgame
i cannot win.
my mother calls me still,
even though i’m far from one,
far from the days of bruising sidewalks —
i tread ever so carefully.
we stuck our bare thumbs into my dad’s beer
at seven and giggled at the sensation,
our fingers skinny dipping in something
forbidden at the time. i felt
lightheaded and giddy and confused
all at once, and
sucking my thumb was new to me.
i can almost hear the beer sing,
sweet in thought,
but bitter toxin in reality.
and when the storms come for me,
i’d like to say that i am strong enough,
that i am the tempests themselves.
but instead i hide with you —
you, who cannot be bothered to
be intricate in a universe that sings
of suicide and ecstasy.
you, who decided to be simple
in the face of the wounded.
you never drank with me.
i begin to dream of shiva in smoky skies,
during nights away from home.
and he speaks to me:
“child, fortify your spirit,
even if your ribs creak and
your lungs heave. child,
dream of brighter heavens
for those you love. child, be
tenacious and witty in this world that favors
“but child, do not open doors
that bring about closings
for that role is mine. to you, i am shiva,
harbinger of finality.”
the last time you smile to me is the end
of many things, some of them mine.
this wreckage is cruel in ways previously
unknown to me, and i was not careful
and yet these misplaced deities smile
on us, even as you tear me apart.
their hands are cold to the touch.
my hands are ever so restless.
i find i recall the world
opening its third eye to me
in my vulnerable times, but i have never felt
but i remember last night.
i remember the sounds.
“my child, you are loved.
my child, you are strong.”
the last time shiva spoke,
it was in my mother’s voice.
i grow older now, but i still check the door.
once, twice, and once more.
(just in case.)
By Parawat Chang