after Aimee Nezhukumatathil
My mother harvests yard-long beans, their tails a bracelet on her wrist. I pour plasticky water into the dusty, dusty dirt & make mud pies. I am a cooking show host. I am eight & want to bike around the cul-de-sac with my neighbor-friends, but my knees are still red-cratered from the last time. I am eight, my brother is new, & we puff our faces into full moons for every picture until our mother cries no, no, no. I am eight & I belt “Heartbreak Hotel” to our Thanksgiving casseroles. I’ll be a pop sensation if the cooking show doesn’t work out. I am eight & I squeeze my mother’s pear lotion into the bath mats & scrunch my toes & dance until the silky green disappears. I never see her nose wrinkle. Sometimes I steal into the dark of her purse & find sugared mango ribbons, tough & expired, meaning a squirrel’s desperate paws, meaning a prize saved for winter. A sweet reminder of home, I think—she pokes at the determined puffing of my cheek & says, No, no, can’t you save one for me?
Noreen Ocampo (she/her) is a Filipina American writer and poet based in Atlanta. Her work appears in Taco Bell Quarterly, Hobart, and HAD, among others, and she studies at Emory University. Say hello on Twitter @maybenoreen!