After my mother and father fight,
my father takes my hand
and we walk down to the Mississippi
where he smokes Camel cigarettes.
He flicks his ashes away from me.
He rarely says my name.
All day on TV, I watch monks
in Saigon douse themselves in gasoline
and light their saffron robes on fire.
When they ignite, they do not cry out.
I study their silence to comprehend
how a tongue turns into flame.
Poem from The Clerk's Tale, reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin Company