“How We Wade”

by Angela Cai

               we had
               a beautiful vision
               of all of our children
               singing a song
               full of hope
               mauna kea]

I’ve never seen the water in New York.
Only in snatches, through window, sorrow, screen,
the cracks between your fingers.
But today, it glitters, lush, bitter, coralsweet.
Bearing me towards my birth mother.
I see
boats, small enough to be birds,
gentle enough to be dogs,
spread heaving, healing,
wandering green-blue.
I’ve never seen the water in New York.
But today, today, today –
Today I am knee-deep in it.
I have only been here for so long.

Onshore a girl is singing
the water goes up to her neck
she is trying to reach us but
her mouth is choked with salt,
her ears are plugged with weed,
her eyes are shut with pitch.
And yet –
the water cradles her towards me
bears her to us like so much strange driftwood.
In her cupped palms is the bluest water I have ever seen.
She bids me drink, tip my chin back,
let the cool whisper of home pass over my lips.
She calls us back,
to be skinned again in swollen shell.
And yet
it is too soon to go.

So she brings a coral wreath for each of us
spears mango, and peach, and biting juice on her wrist

wave of writhing bodies delivers me to the sea, joyous,
back to her, and the water recedes,
laps at my toes the stranger I sing and the stronger she mourns.
I wonder if she’s ever seen the water in New York
or has it always been six feet over her head?

               Give them back –
               your hungry
               your thirsty
               your young.
               Your homeless, your tempest-tossed, your children.
               Do not confuse them for your mighty.]

A girl I hold in the palm of my hand clings to my thumb,
voice no paler than a sailboat.
She tells me:
               I have never seen the water in New York.

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