EXCERPTS


I Did Speak Chinese Once

I wake before opening my eyes, detach an arm or a leg so as I can examine them closely. Reattach them after I’ve ascertained their purpose and before I go shopping. After breakfast, oatmeal, yogurt and a mountain of blueberries, I recap what I know. My mother is dead, full stop. Then she and I commence to talking of all the wonderful dishes she used to cook for me, but after the blueberries kick in so I can discern and write down those recipes.

I’m afraid when I sleep alone and when I don’t, when I capitulate to the situation. There’s no room for regret in the things that don’t happen. Those swaps with my mother are in Italian, but the dead have a way of getting inside my head so the things I’m not telling her are all in Hungarian. Easy peasy, said Kiki, since you don’t speak the language, so the next time we’re in Budapest let me do the talking.

I did speak Chinese once – an address to the people’s congress on how to grow rice in condos. A speech that had been festering for decades, even though Beijing then was no further than my kitchen table. I didn’t mention Tibet on the advice of my handlers, or was it my analyst.

After which I attached a rope to a beam that spanned the ceiling above me. It’s clear that plan wouldn’t have worked anyway, in those days I couldn’t tell a rope from the sentence that word just appeared in. 

To the left is where I buried my mother, to her right is October. I came here to watch her sleep, to mimic her breathing. When finally I realized it would take more than my swollen tongue to keep her from leaving I took to whittling, waited for her death to begin. I’m happy once more but I’m not who I was in September. I wish I was back in that hospital room, her lips must be dry again and soon they’ll need moistening.