Shelf Life

I used to check the expiration dates
of everything I saw. The Tsingtao beer,
canned Swedish meatballs, my mother’s
eyes. My therapist chalked it up to paranoia:
Said I was on the cusp of bone, breath,
anything of sustenance. Stop searching for
something to prove. How
a girl will do anything to live more than once.
At least that’s how my grandmother
preached down the moon: a birth of boys
at her door by midnight. Once
I had an All-American boy. A boy with
wrists like milk and everything white,
everything unholy. When he winked into
the backseat of the Honda I always got
nervous. Where did you go?, as if he was a
mirage. When he left for good I wondered
how a lifespan can psalm a girl, how a girl
can love no one but herself. My mother
used to make me blow-dry my hair until
it was flammable. Warned me that
my ghosts would pass through my scalp
like a child. Never let go. I didn’t listen.
She dried my hair until the spit migrated
to saltwater. To mercy. I asked do
ghosts ever die and really meant will you
ever die? I imagine my mother
giving her answer to the kitchen sink
that night. How she dreamed up
the whole moon to offer herself back.
She preached me Buddhism instead:
Over dinner, I mistook her eyes
for some kind of refugee, wondered if
she preached adrift like it was
a love language waiting to die.

*生命只是等待重置的身体: Chinese, meaning lives are just bodies waiting to reset.