His legs are hairless.
He's the strongest man I know.
Inside his mind he's 18 again, trapped in a constant battle against a now aged enemy.
He's a father, grandfather even.
He sits with his back to the exit, making sure he can protect us.
He is haunted but proud.
He came home on ships full of broken toy soldiers, wound tight and released into an unknown land.
They returned him in less than pristine conditions, cracked and frayed from a war they did not ask for.
His fears and dark thoughts settle in the lines in his face and on the thick skin on his fingertips.
Pill after pill, meeting after meeting, he is tired.
He wants to wash away the things he's seen that he cannot repeat out loud to us.
"He stirs in his sleep." She says.
Trouble and reoccurring demons fighting battles behind his restless eyelids.
He fought for my future.
He fought for my freedoms.
He is my troubled soldier.
you will try to recollect the way i smile
the lines that my eyes make and the light that shines through them
the way i squint when i try to read letters that are far too small
the different wavelengths of laughter
the sneaky one when the politician i voted for won against yours
the sarcastic one when i insult your favorite football team
then you will try to remember the way i ate
the mess i made when i tried to gather rice in my hands
the smile when all of you were not too happy about the mess
then you will remember when i stopped using my walking stick
and when it hurt to walk
then you will realize you can't remember if my favorite sarong is checkered or plain
if it was indigo or brown
was it silk, was it cotton?
then you will realize that the newspaper company you still subscribe to, in memory of me - has shut down
then you will realize my favorite tv show has aired its season finale, and they're not available online
then you will realize my optician no longer makes lenses to the glasses i used to wear
then you will realize the wooden chair i used to live in
that is when,
you will take a step back
and i will be
I know his body is tired and his hair is grey with the weight of time and knowledge
but I want to ask him to stay
I want to run my hands through his hair a little longer
because he looks as innocent as his name
I want to ask him not to leave me yet
But I know he's not mine, I knew from the moment I met him that he's only here for a certain amount of time
I want to hold back the tears as I look at him in the eyes
He's too good, too kind and I know it's almost time for him to go
I hope he knows that I loved him until the very last second
until his eyes couldn't focus on a thing anymore
until the moment where his heart gave up on him
until the last beep of that damn machine
I hope he's some kind of proud
I hope he once loved me too
Ask me who is the most generous man I know and I shall speak his name
Ask me who is the most humble man I know and him I shall acclaim
Ask me who is the most altruistic man I know and his face shall be on the frame
Ask me who is the most kindhearted man I know and you will hear his name again
In my life, I've never met anyone like him again
A man devoted to his family and his community
Always preaching the word of God and leading us to felicity
Always ready to sacrifice his needs for the sake of love and unity
He taught us family, love, fraternity, forgiveness, religion, compassion, tolerance, peace and generosity
I am who I am today thanks to his teachings
He was a leader, a guide, our role model
There is no one like him
He was a father, a brother, a friend, a companion, a grandfather
16 years since he is gone but his words still resonate like thunder
You are no longer here but your teachings linger
A man who was not afraid to cry when needs be but also not afraid to yell and impose order
Always playful with kids and receptive and caring with adults
I feel privileged and lucky to have known him and call him grandpa
For in my life he has played a huge and special part
The memories I will treasure and keep them in my heart
Although he is gone, we will always be together
And his spirit will live on in each one of us forever
From where he is, he is protecting us and guiding us on our way
He is praying for us everyday
He used to pray God "Let it be I who fall sick instead of one of my family member. Let it be I who die instead of someone in my family."
What kind of man wishes for that, you ask.
Someone special I will say, a man of love
And I would like to thank God above
For blessing us with this man, with his kindness and love
I truly believe that God has gifted him with something special
He taught us not to let this world be in our heart for it is not eternal
I know he is in a better place
Watching us all with a smile on his face
I hope we are making you proud from where you are
We are still crying an ocean of tears
As we feel so empty and hold many fears
If I could just turn back the time to those days you used to laugh with us and made us feel so special and loved
Those days you pretended to be in pain when we stepped on your feet while we were playing
Those days when they were only you and us in the room with your half covered grey and curled hair
Those days we used to watch tv together and whenever there was an intimate scene you screamed your favorite word "Touc" and scared us (not that I know what it means)
Time will heal so they say
And time fades away
While a part of us is taken away
I know we will meet again one day
But until that day
Know that you are truly missed
Mame Alassane Lahi whom we affectionately called Mame Rane
I ask, puzzled.
He squinted like he was looking at something far away but could't see it. He pushed his small brown rimmed spectacles up the bridge of his nose, stroking his white beard.
"I couldn't tell you that. You must look inside yourself.. There is the time and place you will find the answer you are looking for."
And he vanished, as fast as he had died the last time.
The pair of spectacles were all that remained, glinting in the sun on mothers old wooden dresser.
"I will grandpa.. I will."
Papa showed me the way
to the wild blueberries.
We hiked up the tall hill,
and found those sapphire
spheres hanging from
He told me stories of
our Native American ancestors
as he taught me how to pick
surely a lesson in gathering
like this goes centuries beyond
our two lives combined!
handfuls and filled our
mouths with the sweetest
blueberries I had ever tasted.
Once we had our fill, we
gazed out upon the horizon
and admired the beauty of the
ancient forest, then we returned
down the dusty trail, climbed
into the truck, and drove away.
My grandpa who eats steamed sweet potatoes on foothills textured in green rice patties
dreamt up a tall brick house with a black iron gate
barbwires sprung around the tips of the entrance to keep out thieves
right now he wonders how long he can keep fibbing to my mother—
their rotten hut at the end of the massive foothill, not fleeting
monsoons come early, swells the ground till it gave
a landslide takes four people and a child
that day, red stars hung above Tiananmen square gates
grounded bones came in sacks, white cement hauled by green skin trucks
My grandpa who loves sweet potatoes constructs an ivory wall.
after the revolution, the sun peeks out in montages
peering through the smoke
gunpowder stuck to the tank tire roads
black heads roll off yellow tar dirt into a pit
My grandpa gives his best friend one thousand yuan—
visas for my mother and grandma,
His best friend disappears,
writes my grandpa
an apology and, leaves him a large white sack of uncooked sweet potatoes
light tan, severs in half and plops down on the lumpy cutting board,
dusty orange inners, grandpa tosses them in the boiling water
and later, while gnawing down,
he pretends they are oranges for once
Grandpa, who’s kneeling on our dried front yard with a worn out copper pail
waters the salty earth slowly until it sprouts sugar canes
chops one down, breaks it in half, the sun beats
peering through palm leaves
a viridescent river of silk and pale honey
my small three year arms grab a hand full
sliced by grandpa into pieces neatly placed
in a blue flowered ceramic bowl
years later, I chop a stalk down and chew until
English becomes a second language again
and in my twenties, I grab a hand full
sliced my mom into pieces, places them in a weaved basket
made of reinforced bamboo
I put it in front of my grandpa’s grave
in Fujian on the foggy mountainside of a small retirement town.
The edge of the South China coast covered in a thick plastic smog,
I sit on a stone eating sweet cold potatoes with my grandpa facing outland,
a red kneeing sun, barely visible past the trees