Count to ten and open your eyes—


The cousins were hiding behind jasmine bushes / mango trees / bamboo grove / yellow Volkswagen / green hedges between yards / Which scene is unseen / The smallest girl ran after the older girls / Tiny legs/ round belly / high-pitched squeals / There she fell before she could complete the circle / No / she was found safe/asleep / Behind the sedge / she curled into a hedgehog / drifted before dusk /

You carry the ring—
my cousin said / I knew he only chose me because my sister had mumps / Her cheeks were inflamed / engorged / monsoon-furious/ Hence / my white dress with lace trimming / Hence / I walked down the street carrying this plastic ring / Once upon a time / is such a cliché / Rangoon sun was relentless / Which is another cliché / A dog snuck behind my legs and took a nip at my calf /

What wedding contained a feral dog?
The house had a red tiled roof and metal bars on doors / Snakes crept in when we weren’t looking / Formed ropes behind the toilet / This was where I learned to check behind / each / door / chair/ commode / bed / tree / shrub / mailbox / neighbors/ walls / telephones / eyes / the dog’s food bowl / The house-geckos squeezed translucent eggs out of their glass bellies and left them in between the screen-door as their / condolences /

This is your birthstone—
said the bald rosy-cheeked astrologer / Or was he a numerologist / a palm reader / a psychic? I couldn’t keep track / The human-gods we worshipped filed in one after another / Dingy dusty / draggled / dismal / doomed conditioned / His yellow cotton candy teeth /

No one went out after 6 pm—
“The National Convention must succeed” / “Let’s defend for posterity of Our Nation’s sovereignty” / Gossip becomes gospel with enough repetition / Saw my reflection in the mirror / I was six / The ring slipped off in spite of my mother/ winding tiny threads around it /

You’ll grow into it.   Be patient.
Clouds are cliché too / Say / the sky was paper / Water square / Salamander is air / Then maybe you could get away with so many things / For weddings my mother wore purple orchids in her hair / nothing for funerals / Hated hibiscus / bold shameless showy floral sluts / In the purse / she found two white pills and swallowed without water /

Hide the skin—
do not wear it openly in the next life. Skin like garnet, resinous, semi-precious. Decades after World War II ended, my mother eats rice with her fingers when there is no guest in the house. Some things begin out of necessity. Some things continue out of identity.  In 1991, I stepped out of the Chicago O’Hare airport. Saw heaps of snow for the first time. There are worlds made of ice. Now I am in one. If you stare into the depth of the garnet stone long enough, you could see a universe forming or dissolving. See how this ring fits my finger now. Promising / hopeful / formed / circular / vitreous / metamorphic /

Born and raised in Burma, Aye Wollam currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri. An immigrant by circumstance, scientist by training and poet by passion, she connects to her roots through poetry. Her writings have appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and Soliloquies Anthology.