To the Mother Crying at the Airport Terminal
After Kim Addonizio
Remember the first snow in your hometown, the time you
waded waist-deep in winter and opened all the windows?
The first time you shivered during supper, the wet clatter
of your wrist echoed against the table. Remember as if your life
depends on it. Remember it like first blood, like first kiss.
Forget fortune, gunfire, mouth oiled in another man’s spit,
the blistered terrain of your knuckles unzipping in the sun.
Hold hands with your brother through the prison bars. Don’t
answer your phone. Air out your grief as laundry. Trust me,
no one was born knowing anything about disaster. Open
the window. Listen: children singing to the blind man outside,
choreographing a play in the cellar of his eye. Forget the time
you darkened yourself into the backseat of the van, paid for your
survival in counterfeit bills. On the beach you bled into seawater
as kelp forests curtained your ankles, cut your hair with bandage
scissors and tossed it into the waves like ashes. This you can
remember without choking: your daughter riding a bike, all the
way down the sidewalk for the first time. Curiosity is her toil. After
she falls asleep, you’ll get tired of dressing your grief. Tomorrow
is not a salvation but a piece of a body you’ll forget. Remember
& remember it again. You’ll get there too—second snow whipping
into your lungs, sand fleeing your palms, laughing until you
lose your voice. You do not have to be strong.
We Left at Dusk
That was the first time I got a haircut, laid still
against the porch as my mother slammed a knife
down the middle the way she prepared meat. When
crossing an ocean, she explained, leave anything
too heavy. That included hair, family photos, the rugs
my grandmother wove parts of her eyebrows into. In
another memory, I was seven. I scooped fistfuls of
afternoon, sparklers licking the cold crunch of November
air. My sister and I posed before the faded film posters,
modeled ourselves into good girls anyone would want
to take home. Growing up, we both wanted to be actresses.
Now, mother tells us to hide in the back of the van and
help her count our inheritance in jewelry. Instead, I look
outside at the black roads windmilling past, dissecting
each pair of eyes that meet us and rehearse their scowl-
smeared faces. Before we sold the TV, I remember
an interview where a lady in a black dress said that
actresses must be able to hide anything, even themselves.
My mother weeps at how the next city over, we’ll be another
headline splashed across the back page of the news.
I asked her why being famous wasn’t a good thing.
The car hobbled over a pothole, my stomach sloshing
into my throat. I dreamed I wasn’t seasick. In my hands:
an Emmy. My face lighter than her gold-coppered wings.
At center stage, the camera beams so bright it lets me be
anything, even loved. Everyone on TV is clapping, this
admiration rare as a wound. The only girls on TV that looked
like me were wrapped in a dark shade of dusk, their faces
shawled with neglect. The orange filters from Mexican movies
staining our cheekbones, only more dark, more dangerous.
If I could paint my lips with honey, play the role
of the main girl collecting prayers in the train station,
maybe I would never find us here: my mother crying
at the airport terminal as businessmen flock past,
a knot of my hacked-off hair in the recycling bin ten-thousand miles
Heather Qin (she/her) is from New Jersey. Her work has been recognized by the New York Times, Breakbread Literary Magazine, Columbia College Chicago, and can be found in Kissing Dynamite, the Shore, and Sine Theta Magazine, among others. Besides writing, Heather loves classical music and reading.