Bus No. 8

On days like this,
my mother folds back the blankets on her side,
pours hot water for tea,
and makes breakfast of fresh rice
mixed with a raw egg, shoyu, and Tabasco.
I take my time getting dressed,
let the shower water heave me in normality
with scrubbed, squeaky skin.

I won't have to watch, like a soothsayer
divining what gesture,
what hue, will hurl her from this world.
I won't have to dial the Uncles
or stock up on oranges and incense sticks.
There won't be talk of my father
and why she banished
his weak Irish blood
that curdled her Korean blood.

I say a secret prayer of thanks for her balance,
even though it is see-through and short-lived,
and set aside a mound of rice for the gods.

I beg them
not to let me find her
broken and undone
until I have to rub her bruised back,
braid her unkempt hair
and apply vinegar to stop the swelling.
With each white grain,
I thank the gods for tormenting someone else.

On days like this, we walk down our water-rotted hallway,
stepping past rotting trash and half naked drunks,
stand side by side
and wait for the No. 8 bus
that will take me to elementary school
and my mother to her fry cook job.
Save for the gods, we can manage.