appear in all the early photos.
My arms belted around my mother,
only the top of my head seen
because she has spoken sharply
and now resorts to begging.
“Your father hasn’t seen you
in eight weeks. Smile. Smile!”
I am too sad or sick to obey
and she makes that sound
between her teeth that
signals the end of a unit
of patience. I release her
and dash off. What follows
I don’t remember. Only after,
dawdling along the hedge,
touching the little flaring flowers.
There are so many that as I run
my hand along, I meet more,
nothing else. The top of my head
is hot from sun. I understand
I am two girls. The one my mother
wants and the one who lives only
among her own kind.

Copyright © 2022 by Esther Lin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.