The rain fell on another city. 
I scooped handfuls of leaves into the car
as a way of holding on.  Some things
we were never meant to keep. 
I was calling on the name
of winter by the Monongahela
where the water was bitter. 
I have seen dead fish in the river
with eyes open like the hungry. 
When I was a child, a man so poor
and starved haunted my dreams.
He would sit in the market crowds
with a tin cup between his wasted hands.
At night he wandered into my twin bed
where I held his body in my sleep. 
There was something familiar about him
as if years later he would remind me
of someone else I clung to
while his body dwindled in my arms.
There’s a kind of desperation
we never know until the flesh wastes away
down to the bone.  In some ways
I never knew my father until then.
At night I’d wander to his bed to hold
his swollen hands.  For years
we lived together and could not
speak them—the words
in his whispered breathing
falling like strands of hair. 

“Afterwards” from SEDIMENT (c) 2009 by Sandy Tseng. Available on this site by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.