Everything Worth Knowing I Learned at a Kitchen Table

Abstract art in green, black, and blue colours

“Sijo” by Marsha Solomon

My cousins know what they know like loose seeds, like the future
blooms from an archive. We smoke hookah in Patterson and flag
the waiter down with our dim coals, thin smoke, we are a pain
in the ass, walo, we know.

The group chat riots joyous when I am in class all day
and when I finally stop to catch up, I find 53 unread messages
of someone being roasted and I wish I knew anything
like I know this reverent mess. A pain in the ass, ode to our mothers.
Laugh to shift the weight, still, heavy like our mothers.

My mother knows what she knows and it stirs, damaged and somehow
asking, hold this close: small child and warm oil, maybe the burn too.
Maybe you know that I love you when I pull you
from the busy street and pray for the cars humming every night after.

Lina knows what she knows like a war for her own bones,
and she proclaims this most Sundays, knocking the table and pointing
at every young eye in the room. Lina flicking a cigarette into a plastic cup
with my mother nodding steady, catching the shout of her kin because
who else will shout when we shout and didn’t we leave our homes for this?

Habib knows what he knows and the ocean where he thought to choose
drowning over a bullet is the same ocean he wants to return to as ash.
I mean, when the time comes. I mean, isn’t how we all come to know home,
returning no matter what was made of us.

I was told not to learn that which a daughter might know for me.
Not allowed to watch my mother hollow the kousa, I learned
in the gap between this and myself until it filled with earth
and the earth was a boy I might empty into.

My brother knows what he knows and it scares me because my father
knew what he knew until we knew he was wrong. I won’t follow anything
to the end of the earth. I mean the real earth. I mean the dead earth
made to stand where we stay for hours. Surely heaven
makes note of this keeping.

Surely, you know that when I don’t say I miss you,
I mean, I have said many words for you today alone.
I mean, when I write a place for us, it is almost like you are here.

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