There was never enough for cab fare
so we walked within the small radius
of our lives, mum & I. What would
decades on; be diagnosed as arthritis
first conceived itself as a stretching pain
in the back of my knees. I hated walking.
Flapping my heels against my butt,
I’d slow down, as mum dragged me on
and often to sweeten my slog, en route
temples or doctors, she’d buy me
a large frosted cup of crushed orange ice,
knowing already it was surefire laryngitis
for my cords, knowing already
she was over-budget yet instead
of letting me into the gloom of deficit,
she’d sugar our stride with mmms and
aaahs as I fed her tiny tastes, cold syrup
saffroning her tongue with which
she’d lick her thumb, count
money over and over, hunched at the edge
of the bed, darkening the minus symbol
at the tally point of her slow calculations.
Those nights when she VapoRubbed
my neck, massaged warm coconut oil
behind my knees I’d mime, taxi, next time
and she’d say why, wherever we needed
to be or go was just thhuk pand te—
a distance reachable by the throw
of one’s spit. Except the stretch between
purse and want. Then she’d pat my knees,
turn on the night-light, and before leaving
for less than an eye-blink, stop. Fix her hair
in the mirror and whisper, see us through, god.
This was three hundred moons and more
before her cancer. And in those sleep-
laden seconds some words for her
would sprout inside my swollen box.
When I cleared my throat, I’d find them
gone. And she was gone too. She’d walked
away, out of our little dark.
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