in the car, the constant rumble of engine / green flying across the window, i lay down in the back seat and the sun warms my face / where are we going? where are we going? / neck aching, slumped over the seat, fingers sticky like the candies i eat / the road wide and bright, unfolds ahead of us and pulls us through villages, through streets / are we there yet? / the glint in my mother’s eyes, see her youth jump out, pointing left and right, hands still gripping the wheels / i remember the story of that building, this green field, that hawker stall there, the same stories she’d tell every time we’re here / for this was where her skin turned brown, her legs grew long, her hair dried out from the brine / right here under the sun, in this beach town.
to our right, blue and green as far as the eye could see / i know i’ve seen it a million times, but it always reveals its new beauty once i set eyes on it again / like every time i leave, the smoke of the city erases my memory of it / smudging it off until there’s nothing but an empty slate with hints of residue / and now i’ve come again, like i’ve only just been born and only just now seeing this / i see this rebirth in my mother as well, her face glistening from the joy and curiosity over the horizon / although this once was her home / she’s showing us her secret cove, this town / a mermaid who brings men underwater to the kingdom that lies beneath / on land her scales lose their shine and the seaweeds in her hair tangle up, an oppression to her / but here, under the water, she stands taller, her voice stronger, the sun greeting her home with a kiss to her forehead / a long lost daughter.
i feel afraid, afraid of making an imprint on this sacred place / i want to preserve my mother’s memories here like a photograph / i refuse to walk where she once walked, afraid to have my footprints stamping over hers / i ask permission to speak, to ask questions, afraid my voice will chase away the laughters and cries of her own here / my mother tells me to stand there, the sea behind me, the sand filling in between my toes, her phone in her hands ready to take a photo of me / i run out of the frame, shaking my head / no, i do not want a photo of me in this place, her place / i do not want her to look at it and see my body, my face in the very space where her body, her face once occupied / i do not intend to steal her place, i want to keep this space, gather it in my palms like sand and hand it to her / tell her to hold it tight and never let it go / i never want to be in it forever, i am just a human visitor and soon, the currents and the wind will carry me back to my own rightful place.
even so, my heart swells when i stand here / on the line that separates these two worlds / the tides beckon the water back like a mother calling her children home / the water reaches out to me but i am too far away, they sigh with frustration as they pull back / this place i never doubt i will forget once we get in the car and drive home / i will still dream of it at night, i will see a face, a face not unlike my own / she runs and screams and climbs and laughs / and in that dream i stand exactly where i am now, watching her / for now, my body grows warm and my lungs open up / i breathe in everything, the saltwindvoiceswaves, and it stays there at the bottom / i reach for it in times of comfort, for i will forget what this place looks like / but i have these things still inside me / i call out to that place, i wonder if it recognizes my voice and calls out to me too / i call it home, i wonder if it spreads its arms open to invite me in / at home, i look at the sun, i wonder if it will pity me and show me what that place looks like again / i look at my mother’s face, and it is all i need to remind me of everything that once was.