Mother of Pearl


after Marianne Chan


                I woke up with blonde hair, a young boy, and salt
barnacling on skin. In the water, there is a mother-
               of-pearl. The oyster’s mouth is silver-lipped. The pearl,
a hefty price. My knuckles open the water. My mother
               tongue is breath gasping before it speaks. My small
palm is holding a smaller palm is hoping the mother
               of mothers inside. I swam to the shore holding both
breath and longing. There is a line and a blur, a mother
               standing, waiting. Finding. The shortening between body
and the shore in distance, but I’m farther from my mother
                land. I am Lolo’s boy-body buoyed in water. Lolo taught
me how to swim. He taught me how to language. Mother
                was not the first word in my mouth. The word was baba:
meaning, father; meaning, mouth. I remember mother
               feeding me her pearl necklaces. Her milk beads were
iridescent. Boy tongue was full. Boyhood was mother
               less. Boys like me woke to no mothers, but mothers
of pearl. I am an heirloom in a pawnshop. My mother
               is a portrait on the wall. My Lolo is sound found behind
a country I left. My Lolo is sitting beside my grandmother,
               my Lola. He talks about boyhood: how he swam to farm
for pearls. I wonder if pearls wonder about their mothers.

Miguel Barretto García