I stripped the sheets from around the edges,
removed the memory foam from the mattress,
removed the wild skin of myself
from its uniform organs.
The soul, upon parting from the body,
must be like a cloud, light and removable.
The body is a bed you sleep in
and wake up from
I must have dreamt it,
the city of San Jose, city of my twenties
with its hair salons and movie theaters,
the hills that looked like thirsty men
on a long road from Mexico, crossing into a border
of trees that remind me of my grandfather.
The redwoods and real-estate buildings point towards a sky
the color of fish scales he once scrubbed off bones
on the work floor of a cannery when he was twenty,
quiet, disciplined work done late into the evening.
And the redwood trees in San Jose were my father
coming back to a cabin in the woods one night
in college after watching The Blob and finding
the keys to his house missing.
They say all things are connected.
I thought about that, driving down Highway 5,
when I packed my snow globes and sandals.
How the blouse I had on had been stitched by the hands
of Chinese girls in a sweatshop.
I could feel their diligent, raw fingers on my shoulders,
an ambiguous shadow of hands under my shell and how
my students come from Vietnam and hug me when
they leave at the end of the year and finally make their journeys.
I know they have to remove so much of themselves
and make it transportable on both sides of the ocean,
like magnificently small suitcases full of
fish sauce. Compacted histories put on ice.
And I know somewhere they open magazines and think about me
in a land of coconuts and Inga fruit where their mothers
cook catfish dinner and a pot of rice, and their fathers’
voices are calling to them the way my Father’s
calls to me, in the far away sound of the trees.
Tresha Haefner’s poetry appears or is forthcoming in several journals and magazines, most notably Blood Lotus, The Cincinnati Review, The Fourth River, Hunger Mountain, Pirene’s Fountain, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle. She is the recipient of the 2011 Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, and author of the chapbook Take This Longing from Finishing Line Press.