How to say milk? How to say sand, snow, sow,
linen, cloud, cocoon, or albino?
How to say page or canvas or rice balls?
Trying to recall Japanese, I blank out:
it's clear I know forgetting. Mother, tell me
sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox
After skimming the Sunday Times, Dad turned to the back of the magazine
and tore out the crossword puzzle for his mother in Wisconsin—
as routine as my calligraphy class on Saturdays, flute practice
exactly twenty minutes on school nights
and astringent twice daily. I loved the idea of puzzles
but never tried my hand as problem-solving rubbed up against rivalry—
red velvet cake, red velvet dress, trilling—
because nothing was never enough and yet
more than a small rectangular lawn and the pulsing marsh beyond.
A puzzle might've been escape enough. A maze—instead of crossword?
No, cross words were our puzzles, after all. Although my sister and I adored
jigsaw pieces. Five-hundred. A zoo, I think. Giraffes, absolutely.