Warm seagrass tangles around the doorways at the feet
of black mangroves. I am nothing if not my first waters.
In my mother’s memory of her village, she recalls
the turning river of ottelias stumbling on loose sunlight,
loose soil. Tonight, she sends a voicemail across seabeds and
bottomfeeders to announce her divorce. All migrants know
the sea-dark mud pummeled into their new napes, where
the body rejoined with the lilies snarling between their skulls.
I know all mire is blunt. Except, she remembers her native stream,
how she bore the human
-hardened rope for the first half of a life. When I land
in Fujian, she is boating the River of Grass in America. I sleep
with the lanternflies wounding the soft blankets of
trees that house them. I shake the men’s hands,
men who caught swamp eels dressed in their gowns of
muck. All living comes from the dead. The thick necks
of fishmongers immune to the guillotine they cradle. Blackened
teeth and clay-tugged gums of my mother’s brothers, the ones
who stayed. I inherit silt and labor. I am so clueless
with why the insects sway on, their migratory
flights robbed of joy. This is not my land. This is
not my first love, not even my last. On her airboat
in the Everglades, my mother reminds me that all men
are the same. Hungry and unwilling, mouths of sludge.
Among the knotweeds, I realize the depth of my belonging.
What light cleaves the delta into separate countries of being,
where the floodplain is as sweet as glass. I
say I feel sorry for her. Her black hair becomes a waterway.
Daniel Liu is an American writer. His works appear in The Adroit Journal and Diode. He has been recognized by The Poetry Society, YoungArts, and the Pulitzer Center.