this time the winter of 74, a year before we left.
it was always winter in that place i can’t quite recall.
but i have spoken of this before,
of the time i wandered through the nameless streets
in seoul, paper money crumpled tight in my right hand,
the tips of the fingers of my left hand sliding on the surface
of walls and steel gates; trying not to lose contact
because it is this thing that touches my skin in daylight
that guides me home, this surface until the end
where i lost myself at the fallen snow.
the point is not that my mother found me,
as i cried in the alley behind the house,
but the details i have so far left out—that my father
was at work again, building a ramp up to the church
a cab ride away, where grandmother would later
plant rosebushes and name them after her grandsons,
my namesake the one second to the left—
my brother and i would run to them each sunday morning,
up the zig-zag of the concrete ramp that father would
eventually finish, to stand in front of them, comparing
the growth, how i waited for my name to grow taller
than the world as i pulled at the sleeve of mother’s blouse.
nor is the point the cracks on the asphalt that appeared
after the snow to swallow the regrets of a city in january
as a voice abducted me around the bends.
this is not the lie i expected—
an attempt to put into words
the sparrow that kept returning each morning
to our balcony and our sunlight,
promising us a child, a daughter,
leaving a note with the name we were to give her.
how do i speak of these things?
i am now what remains of the details i choose to cherish
as i join my family once a month
and we do what we always have done to bare it,
tell each other new stories of ghosts
and shadows that we can’t explain,
as mother entwines her short fingers
and tells us that one, that story,
about the ocean and the waves rising like cypresses
and the spaceship that has come for her since she was a child.
when it is my turn,
i tell them i have been staying up nights,
my wife asleep next to me with her arms above her head,
and i tell them about all the UFOs over argentina
until he smiles, his mouth smaller now over his dentures.
“did i tell you about the chilean soldiers who witnessed
the spaceships before the war with argentina broke out?” he asks.
“yes, about the invisible dragons,” i say.
he nods, happy that i have once again embraced
the unseen guides that lead me to rapture.
but see, even here, it’s those things i leave out—
i don’t even begin to tell them about that sunday
at the emergency room,
walking through the hallways,
my fingers touching the surface of things,
of tables and curtains, of walls and telephones,
to find her there, sitting on a metal bed,
somewhere between laughing and crying,
the sparrow having come and gone with what it had gifted,
my left hand on her thigh covered in worn denim,
my right one in a fist around a crumpled name.