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The Talon House

The Eulogy


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The Eulogy

Roughly the size of a grain of rice,

the scar is barely visible now. Touching it

brings back my mother's mouth saying

nothing before I left that evening

and my sister's saying "lemon juice"

when I returned. She was up,

not waiting, watching TV.

I sliced a lemon and rubbed its juice

into the ink stamped on my hand at the first

of a string of bars. Fifteen years gone, I'd been

more guest than family tagging along with cousins —

my first time ever bar-hopping in Honolulu.

Unwilling to offend with my "good English,"

I'd mostly listened, nodded and sipped as they drank,

and we made small talk and made our money talk,

one-upping each other by flashing bills

for the next round. At the Korean bar,

when conversation flagged, we sang karaoke.

Half of me wishes I'd gotten wasted with them.

And the part of me struggling to stay awake wonders

what made me say yes in the first place.

At the kitchen sink, I'd traded lemon juice first for soap,

then for soap and the light scraping of my thumbnail,

then thumbnail and running water, then soap

and a nylon scouring pad. Afterwards,

with my sister, I sat in the dark till the movie ended.

The next morning I dressed for the funeral, where

because not one among the 500 gathered could speak

as a friend, on behalf of the family, my mother

had asked me to speak. And simply because I could

I spoke of my grandmother's life and read a few poems.

The spot I'd rubbed raw glistened and stung

like flesh under a freshly broken blister.

Debra Kang Dean


BOA Editions, Ltd.

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