Umma never let me wait up for you.
But sometimes I didn’t fall asleep
until I heard you come home.
Porch door swung open, plastic blinds slapped against the door.
I drifted away,
knowing you would be met with a steaming bowl of white rice
and a hearty, spicy stew.
You never showered before you slept.
I know this because the smell of raw fish and cigarettes
you carried from the restaurant
permeated our home,
battling the scents of chili and garlic
wafting from Umma’s kitchen.
The immigrant curse meant work and sleep
were all you knew.
So freedom for you was driving me an hour away,
where we dipped our feet in cold water
and imagined stories about the lakes’ mysteries.
The lake was your freedom.
So they spread your ashes there.
I watched them do it, along the bank.
It had been cold for weeks
but the grass was so bright that day,
welcome you with its summer best.
lapped at the shore,
carried some of you away.
You would finally unlock its secrets.
wanted part of you too,
and I remember how pretty your ashes looked,
falling from grieving fingertips
and fanning out like you were dandelion seeds
about to grant a wish.
sometimes I wish
I would have dipped my hand into the box
and felt your ashes fall from between my fingers.
But I think
I am glad
that the last time I touched you,
you were alive.