A cowboy tipped his hat at my mother, once. I'd never
seen that before. Something almost understanding
in his demeanor. Not at all the regard of others like him—
that steady gaze, less like watching a blue jay
or a cardinal, and more like watching a pigeon;
the quiet amusement that comes from wondering
how it is a bird can grow so plump.
Years later, after seeing her home village
for the first time since the war, my mother comes back
with fresh childhood details—tall ceramic vats
cooking fish sauce in the sun, dried squid laid out
on porches pummeled into shredding by pestles
like small baseball bats. The polite gestures—
the old women singing by the busy brook, the young
wives passing by them, bowing, carrying away
with them a song about a mother egret.