Nicole Tong



What I meant to say was
this flooded desert. And I
know its song, a tune I try

to hum over rain
and dial tone (this call long
over). I am pressed

to a receiver. Night
falls. Fails me every time.
Never listens. Back

home, gravel roads take
unexpected turns. Lead
nowhere. I was content

with this. I am unsure
when words began to matter,
the first time I was speech-

less. Some stories are not
mine to tell. Others belong to no one
else. The accessory

for my first school play
was a cane that could not hold
my weight. I learned the hard way.

Later recited times tables
down Kroger aisles so fast
I puked in frozen foods. Tonight

I remind myself the sea is real.
I know because I’ve seen waves
lap the shore. Still the distance

between us is one I can’t see:
the way deserts erase names
from tombstones labeled Dear— 

I’ll hold. The drone
on the other end isn’t shrill
and it keeps me.

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