Leaving the Desert (story in reverse)

Ching-In Chen

Ching-In Chen

He had always let me have my way before.
I thought my brother eventually
would leave me a message back.
My father had shut off the radio each night and asked us to repeat our memorized sentences to him.
(the one who had come to sweeten the honey)
My brother always received praise,
but I knew he had spent half the time I had to write them.
a boiled egg for ten sentences.
Eventually, we worked out a fair exchange –
There was nothing left in our dusty town once we laid our father into the ground and his sisters claimed their shares.
I watched him until the sky went dark and I could see no more.
He had walked to the horizon and then kept going.
That's when I realized he had really left me behind.
This time, I left 12 messages up and down the street and heard no answer.
Some day, you'll see my black hair – very fine, very short – and think you'll have caught me, but I never answer.
What he left – a smooth stone. A clean and well-worn search.

Ching-In Chen is the author of 'The Heart's Traffic: a novel in poems' and 'recombinant' (2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry). Visit chinginchen.com.

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