On Coming Home
On the way home, you drive backwards,
thinking of the snakes slithering
like ghosts between grass stalks beside the highway.
Beyond the onslaught of identical truck stops, fast
food joints, roadside assistance booths, waning traffic
lights; even the sun looks tired. The clouds above are
frozen in their uncanny shapes, and you suspect they know
you didn’t want to come back.
You hate coming home – but at least it’s always
there; with its lonesome strip malls
and the memory of your mother’s perfume fossilized
in neon convenience store lights. Your father’s old
magnolia tree brings you no comfort, You know that
these blooms, like you,
are not the same as before.
The immobile stars
shine like birds with broken wings
Yet here you are,
getting older and older.
tethered to the past, driving backward
as the world spins wildly on,
First, light your incense.
Gather betel nuts, eagle feathers, the tiny bones of luckless lizards. Wave
your fan palm as your Lola chants mantras in a circle of salt. Guyabano
leaves are for forgiveness. She steeps them in boiling holy water, sour and
stagnant in the throat; I bite back the bile like an apology. She says, open
wide. My tongue trembles –
but I drink.
Garlic is for banishing evil. Anoint the corners of your home. Place
a raw slice on your tongue, bring strength to your sentences. Plant
the tiniest cloves between the concrete cracks
and watch their flowers unfurl. Patience, my child.
Finally, find your body again.
Drink water beneath the lunar light
and rest, and wait for the full moon to return,
because it will, in time,
for those who remember to look up.
Middle Island, New York
I listen, listen carefully
To the city’s shallow breathing.
The pavement shudders –
On her shoulders, a crown of broken glass.
Stories fall from the cracks in my skin
I watch the light in your house die.
I am looking for answers
In a dead bird, sleeping askew
On snow white pavement
A decaying inkblot,
A ruined love song,
A ballad for the dreams that became to-do lists.
The street light watches me daydream about you,
staring into the windows of my skull.
Frostbitten sadness paws sadly at the
snow, Longing for the smell of home.
“Middle Island, New York” was first published in Chasing Shadows Magazine (November, 2021)
Erica Hom is a poet, educator and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 with a double BA in Russian Literature and Applied Linguistics. She currently works as a poetry editor for the Auriga Magazine, and is an artist-in-residence for the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU). Her work has previously appeared in Line Rider Press. More of her writing can be found on instagram, @e.h.writing
photo by Hua Ling (via unsplash)