The bow of a Muckleshoot canoe, blessed with eagle feather and sprig of yellow cedar, is launched into a bay. A girl watches her mother fry venison slabs in a skillet— drops of blood sizzle, evaporate. Because a neighbor feeds them, they eat wordlessly; the silence breaks when she occasionally gags, reaches into her throat, pulls out hair. Gone is the father, riled, arguing with his boss, who drove to the shooting range after work; gone, the accountant who embezzled funds, displayed a pickup and proclaimed a winning flush at the casino. You donate chicken soup and clothes but never learn if they arrive at the south end of the city. Your small acts are sandpiper tracks in wet sand. Newspapers, plastic containers, beer bottles fill bins along the sloping one-way street.
From The Gingko Light by Arthur Sze. Copyright © 2009 by Arthur Sze. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.