I couldn’t bring myself to feel pity for him. Some people had fathers who’d earned that kind of devotion, who’d sat through years of dance recitals and graduations. Papa paid the bills while Mom reluctantly doled out love. He and his job were the foundation of all things. We set our clocks to his needs. We toured the new power plants his company financed, donning yellow hard hats, pretending to be impressed, fishing warm sticks of gum out of our pockets to stay awake while walking through cement corridors. I can still recall the sound of my footsteps in those empty places.
The rain is clearing, but the sun has just set. The sea breaks on the rocks. Philippa scrolls through her Instagram, comparing her thighs to those of the girls she'd gone to school with and not really liked.
I don’t think much about memories I have that are in Mandarin, though I wonder sometimes if that’s because I have a complicated relationship with one language while living in a country that privileges another.
We writers have our work, just as others have their work, and we must do it. And let us not forget: people write because they need to write, because there is something that obsesses them that will not go away until they write about it. To ignore that need is to court who knows what psychological danger.
What is Akbar’s pilgrim searching for? Sobriety? Solace? Something that rewards precise wording, like a prayer or poem? Or something beyond speech? Poem by poem, the answer varies, and at times what he’s seeking matters less than how he’s asking for it.
Her poem being workshopped is—I had told her to rethink trees—about a tree. The poem is dedicated to Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and describes an anonymous tree with a broken branch. Someone’s nicked their names into the bark. One student—classically handsome, tall, lean Black kid, writes sort of impenetrable jewel-like poems with beautiful turns of phrase and always breezes into the room with a classmate, laughing—breaks the silence. “I don’t think Trayvon would want to be turned into a tree.”