The first thing I learned out of the velvet dark of the womb was to not turn
my back on the ocean. She liked to reclaim children like me, they whispered.
In island nowheres, middle or edges of them, you suck salt out of wounds and spit
it to the sun, sharpen your teeth on kiawe thorns, wet satin of gums whimpering.
Tooth-ached, my lips bled from slipping—could never manage to bite down
on the words right. The brightness marks you: mynah bird, mongoose, banyan tree,
and me. Wrong in corner-of-your-eye ways. Unlike the banyan tree whose roots
crept under my house looking for bones bleached by riptide, I did not learn
how to slither below the earth. Mongoose, red em dash laid bare by tires:
I steer around her body and thank the watching birds that it was not me.
You ask me of that damp-earth home. It is too quiet there. It buries itself in you,
I tell you, but you have not seen how I spilled my own innards as an offering
to a roadside altar for five dead teenagers. You tell me to leave then,
cast down a blanket of jacaranda flowers and go. I do not know how to explain
the heartbeat throb of how the Night Marchers come from the east—or is it west?
How can I not know which way to turn to keep the laughing dead from taking me,
you wonder, but I bare to you my bloody gums. The ghosts under my floorboards keen.
First and final mistake: I faced away from the sea.