the aftermath

the aftermath

Kim Salac
Media Staff

“Sometimes being offered tenderness feels like the very proof that you've been ruined.” - Ocean Vuong

the aftermath of living—
have we ever thought about it?
buried in the land we used to own
the trees growing over our bones

my mother is afraid of telling her story
she says it is too long,
and has too many parts
the frogs croak outside
and i think about who told her
that her life was too long,
and how many times
it was me

when you leave an onion in the burlap sack
it begins to grow it’s own roots
no sun, no water
just a desperate life
stubborn and wanting
my mother doesn’t cry
when cutting onions

when i left home
i didn’t know it would be just—the first time
rafts are useless for those
who never learned to hold tight
was i born without this basic instinct?
i took swimming lessons for years
but it never did me any good

life comes and goes in stages:
birth, childhood, adolescence,
adulthood, old age, death
remember the game called tag?
one of the first things we’re taught as children
is to chase and be chased
in the circle of life, which stage chases the other?

it’s impossible to tell if
anything is worth it
we live to survive
but what about the lucky ones?
the ones who have survived,
do they get to live?
i’m grateful to be a lucky one
but no one ever taught me
how to be lucky
when you leave your home
where does your heart go?
there are dates on the table
and my mother is deep-frying piyaju
on the stove behind me
if my mother’s story is too long
i think mine is too short

do you know this bengali proverb:
the snake did become straight, after it died
it’s supposed to mean that in the end we learn our lesson
only after getting in trouble
it’s a warning but—
also said post-mistake
a proverbial “i told you so”

i used to have a pet turtle
i raised him for many years
until we moved and i had to release him
i knew he wouldn’t survive
having been raised in captivity
but i hoped he’d be like onions
stubborn and wanting
much better at swimming
than me

there’s another quote
this one american:
“doubt kills more dreams than failure”
right now i’m failing to heed the words
who do i listen to?
my mother or the soil i was born on?
the soil i will be buried in?

when speaking i have a tendency to say
“long story short…”
even though i am bad at making my stories short
i think it’s a bad thing if the ego wins
it’s not like our bones get any bigger
when we’re put in the ground

i think life and death are running
in the same direction:
towards each other
i never wanted to be the lucky one
being offered tenderness
in the aftermath
now, what to do with all this love?
what to do with all this life?