She was surprised to see that he still smoked the same cigarettes, after all these years. It was what she used to run to get for him, when he started getting jittery and started pacing in the editorial room. Marlboro Black Menthol “without legs,” ng jiu goek.
This year was my turn to light the fire, and I chose to do it on top of a rough black stone that looked unmistakably like Ernest Borgnine—the same roundness and folds. No one else knew, but earlier that day I’d come to the beach in our mother’s car and caught a mackerel—which I hadn’t done since I was a child—gutted it with a pocket-knife, wrapped it in foil, and buried it under a layer of flat stones before resting Borgnine on top.
What happens after a fire? Who dusts, sweeps, and tosses the remains out into open fields, to sow, replant, and tend to new growth? Do you need to know how a burn feels to recognize what it is like to be soothed?
In the house that he built as / the 60s were turning I / find myself standing where I was / once a smart alec kid going / places who sort of looked down / on her parents who wanted the / life reached by climbing a stair / that began somewhere else