Every time Billy Bilkim Costanza entered the antique shop where I worked, he would find some excuse to say, “The mountain still calling me, boy. The voice in my ears might change but the message always remains the same . . .
In the summer of 1977, almost a year after Elvis’s death, I met my father for the first time. While many were still mourning the passing of “the King,” in Toronto, we were preparing for a party that promised to be hotter than the record temperatures that divided the city into those who loved the heat and those who didn’t . . .
There was no need to open my eyes to tell the difference; all I needed to do was breathe. One slow inhalation of air held in my body as long as possible. At the time, I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was, but what I could say was that with one deep breath my lungs were filled with the atmospheric odours particular to Hong Kong . . .
The father, his wife and two children are standing in the basement when the bird flies in. It must have come in through the chimney. It circles and circles over their heads, desperately trying to find something familiar and get away from the faux wood panelling and green shag carpet . . .
I found her in literature only once, hiding in Salman Rushdie’s short-story The Courter. London, 1962, an Indian nanny walking down a street in Kensington with the edge of her “red-hemmed white sari” in hand . . .
yes, this places still exists in winter,
although reduced ferry service and
a wind that rattles the bones
of the skeletal trees lining the beach
certainly make it less accessible.
and the sand is coarse and hard—
the weight of too many ghosts
has compressed it and the ice has cooled
summer’s too-hot-to-stand-in dreams . . .
A blown kiss floats above the ocean, lingers
dreamt, a thumbprint stamped
from nectarines with fuzz of peach and stubble of
face, lobe of ear, grazed,
The nectar drips down
soft neck of smoke, sweat, sweet
smell of Indian summer, legs and twigs entwined, not tangled . . .
—“Ow . . . yo, that hurt.”
A young woman jams her elbow into my chest shoving me out of her space. Her distracted exit from a department store propels her small pod of friends askew. My chest hurts, not in a call-the-ambulance kind of way but in a startled unexpected physical-contact-with-a-stranger kind of way . . .
Every morning, before school, Riyaz spent at least an hour packaging parathas. She had learned the process quickly, not long after moving to Toronto to live with her mother’s eldest sister. Wipe the kitchen table. Lay out newspaper pages . . .
It was the first time I’d sat down with Frank since moving out five years earlier. More might have passed were it not for Yuri killing himself. I recall thinking spring was the season I would’ve chosen, too . . .
The guy in the tight, black Speedo
(shine over the crotch)
is ready to dive;
another Russian Jew,
new to the community pool,
unsure of how to say “Make way!,”
makes his announcement nonetheless
“I am here
in your country . . .
Amal stands in front of the gymnasium,
she doesn’t fidget, she stands straight.
Jeremy hisses, Why does your cousin always have to sing?
and I shrug my shoulders. The gymnasium is almost quiet,
it’s Christmas and students whisper like crinkling wrapping paper . . .