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Letter

The Hawaiian woman
the children called “Tutu,”
who sold pooka shell necklaces
by the roadside, is gone.

You can no longer gather those shells
by the handful.

But the Japanese fisherman,
old as Urashima Taro,
still sings the song
of home village
as he casts his lines out
to sea.

A wave slaps the shore,
rushes over my feet,
leaving a piece of beach glass
awash on the water-swept sand,
blue, like a fragment of ocean
still clung to by a film
of sea froth.

You say you won’t be back,
for a while at least,
your new job and life
landlocked in miles of dessert sand.

I send you this piece of ocean
to keep your feet wet
till they find their way
back to the islands.

 

What Grandmother Murmurs at Her Husband’s Grave

She sweeps the unswept stone;
cuts back the beard of grass
—a clean edge round the stone—

scours the tall flower jars clean;
and puts new water in,
swapping time-fobbed blossoms

for fresh blooms. Torch ginger,
bird of paradise—deep
eye of indigo, bright

orange plumes. Gravestone dressed,
she rubs the bronze nameplate
with oil to keep it bright;

murmurs an hour to stone
of cares that trouble none
but leaves on clay-cold ground,

the sky in purple swoon.
White dewfall of evening.
Grass roiling like a sea.