The moon is far away, but still it sways the tides
Never look at the black sun, my grandmother tells my mother. My mother is a child, and my grandmother is still alive. The newspapers warn there is no safe way to look at a solar eclipse. We have no special glasses in Sri Lanka yet. But people must see what they can see. Some smear coal across their spectacles before they look. Some hold hand-mirrors high to see the reflection of the ringed sun over their shoulder. My mother peers into a basin of water. She tells me this story every year I visit, as if for the first time. Doesn’t an eclipsed sun look just like the moon, I say. I don’t remember, she says. I remember the ripples in the water.
Montauk is a place where nothing goes wrong. We come here every summer. Always yellow sand, green water, stretching sky. But this year, we trip over trash in the water as we walk along the strand, drinking wine out of plastic bottles. Those rocks…my friend says, staring hard at the distant line of rocks we always reach for. You’re drunk, I say. No, she laughs. It’s just…I want those rocks to be here forever. I say nothing. There is a word for this, but we don’t know it yet.
I always cry on my birthday
There are birthdays when I try to feel as little as possible so there’s nothing to cry about; years when I flee to neutral spaces clear of anyone who knows me so I can pace the borders of my life, clean as the edges of a polaroid. There are years when my mother throws birthday parties I don’t want and no one comes. Every year my father calls and says nothing. There is the year my grandmother dies and I won’t know how to mourn her until a birthday yet to come. I always cry on my birthday, I tell my husband who I can’t avoid. He nods. It hurts, he says. To be born.
The family says great-grandmother was half-English–maybe, maybe-no. Blue eyes and so fair, they say, fairer than any of us. There must have been something, no, an officer or someone, they waggle their heads, yes, no, yes, no. They’re a bit ashamed (her shame); a bit proud–our pride. She was like a doll, they say, a porcelain doll. There was a time I thought history romantic, and behind us.
I’ve been having blue glass dreams
You know the ache of love that bursts its own drum and spills through the leaks? I dreamt we had that. We put our love in a blue box frame, behind glass. I dreamt of a mother, not me, not mine, who set down a glass box frame and said, look what my daughter made me. Blue glass ache. That kind of love only moves one way, my own mother said. Only forward. When we had sex today, I saw a woodblock of blue–maybe a lagoon, maybe a loon, maybe a moon, but all the way blue. And I said to you, did you get the love I leaked, from behind my glass to behind yours.
Di Jayawickrema is a Sri Lankan New Yorker currently living in Washington, DC. She teaches creative writing to kids and teens, and organizes for migrant justice. Her work has appeared in Burning House Press, Marías at Sampaguitas, Unbroken Journal, Flock, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @onpapercuts.