Mrs. Dhondup says life is not a happy lollipop
and she has said that before. Not in so many words
but when her brother lost his house in a neighborhood fire,
she went out to save what she could; while he went
to his buddies and drank himself to sleep she said
she was washing her hands off his affairs. Then next morning
was seen cleaning the yard of embers. She is sitting with mother
who has once again lost her composure and, crying into her hands,
is saying Really, I would understand everything, if he would only . . .
Somehow I always lose her last words. They are seated before
the window; I can see how still the world is beyond mothers shaking
shoulders and Mrs. Dhondup running back and forth
between tea on the stove and loose cleaning rags which she puts
against mothers cheeks. She taps her finger against the window
to dislodge the ant walking on the outside.
She points towards it and it becomes the object
of their compassion. Mother looks at the ant, and beyond it to endless
space, anticipating a lesson. Life is not a happy lollipop, she says.
She looks towards me as she says it. Her fingers reach
for the window as though to wipe away the image before her.
It is her own but she is looking at something else.
Tsering Wangmo Dhompas first book of poems, Rules of the House, will be published this fall.
Originally published in the October/November 2002 issue of Boston Review