This is the ritual. Like smoke
braiding then falling then
choking. We fumble
(at least one of us does)
unwinding ribbons of cabbage and shrimp.
We are so civil. So kind.
The sun is a slow river
of lava rolling over the windshield of a car
that growls at the curb. Heat seeps in
through the cracks around the door
and eats at the legs
of our narrow table.
How can he be
so quiet? So calm?
I want to cry
out for the server to close the curtains
and turn up the chill, to cry
for the sake of noise.
I strain to say
how good it is we survived
and he says Yes, this is what we do.
This is how it is. So I press on
the scorched balls of my feet (to stanch
the boil or start it?)
but he does not
call for ice. He does not shudder
from the quiet. He’s never known
what it is to be a woman
We rate our happiness on a sliding scale.
I felt big things
always, never anything as tiny
as a skewered curl of shrimp
poised over sweet vinegar in a tea bowl.
This man will be a friend
of sorts even though he opens the door
for me on my way in and
in the slope thrusting up
for me to step through. I want to marry
myself. If such a thing could be done,
if by walking backward
across the face
of the clock, I could take the weight
of the girl who shares my name
and let her lean here on this older
version. The one across the table
is old too
but I would not be so warm
or waiting at the door
with a white smile.
I would be the one
who grips the earth
when she forgets how to keep her skin
around her bones
and carry her
over the threshold.
I would reach to loosen the cord
at the volcano’s neck
and take the first step
into its spilling open