Poems from ‘The Odd Month’ by Valeria Meiller translated from the Spanish by Whitney DeVos
Poems from ‘To the Roots’ by Ra Heeduk translated from the Korean by Lauren Albin
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People always asked what we were doing there. The rehearsed line I said when people asked was, “We’re expatriates.” In my eight-year-old mind this word that came out like scrap metal meant, “white-people permanently not in white-people land.” That was the only way I had ever heard it applied. I knew I wasn’t Mexican. I didn’t consider myself American. Most of our friends, though fluent in Spanish, were other white people from English-speaking countries. They too were expatriates.
Grandma Sally pinched and blended. Smoothed and spiked. Followed where scent and hands led her with “a little of this, a little of that.”
I arrived in camp in the middle of 2017, resuming my National Service after some years abroad. I remember little of those first, scorched days, except that barely two months later one of us was killed in a training accident. It happened while his unit was on an exercise in Australia: they were maneuvering by night when his tank overturned, flinging him to the ground. We found out the next day. His unit occupied the barracks right across from ours, and finding his picture in the news, it was impossible to say if I had not seen him in the cookhouse just weeks before—warm, rowdy, and alive.
Leo’s whole body is now cold and fractured, a calving iceberg. The old man’s incontinent and incoherent and not long for this world—this seems more like a hospice situation than a long-term housing prospect. Leo feels the old compulsion to flee the apartment, take the stairs up to the roof, where there’s a ledge. Remember, though, what the 11am group therapist always said? Feelings aren’t facts.
“/ I give you / the air / of my lungs / may it be / the aperture / your memory needs”
I try to remember that my husband is an angel of a man, a profferer of backrubs, bringer of flowers, an emergency therapist, whose only oafishness I can point to is a tendency to binge-watch prestige cable shows for hours on end but I feel my voice involuntarily thicken against my throat. “So you think I should just get a lobotomy? Or a personality transplant? What do you think would be best?”
I don’t always know the difference between remembering and seeing, but Tinkerbell says that’s okay because only a fool believes in time and memory both.
The carrot seedlings grew two perfect, long leaves like blades of grass. I’d vibrate with excitement every time I peeked in on them, every time I brushed my fingertips softly against their green.
“cutting memories of Papa, lined-up / history…”