her child would never know the damp of hunger in his bones

illustration of a mother and sun as silhouettes, eating burgers and fries with blue waves in the background
Art by Kristina Closs

I Tell My Mother About My Depression

by Eric Tran

She is ashamed of my seasickness,
her son, bled down from boat people.

We are kidding, of course: between waves
and prayers to Mercy, she swore

her child would never know
the damp of hunger in his bones.

She wanted him fat like clay
and just as soft. In college, I lost

ten pounds of myself and half
the words she sang to me as a baby.

The aunties cooed my new frame
but she was silent, both of us famished

for the words we meant. I say 
I’m sad from sun to sun

and her response is a crisp
twenty for the quiet burger joint

we visited when I was young
and never talked, or didn’t need

words, our mouths and bellies
singing the same full rhythm.

from The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer

Advertisement

I haven’t touched anyone in a year

Here is a poem I’ve always loved by Solmaz Sharif, whose necessary work, including her first book Look, I can’t recommend enough–and who I am lucky to know not just on paper but in life as a dear friend.

an illustration of a blue egg on a plate with white bones and line drawings of arugula around it
Art by Kristina Closs

“Beauty”

Frugal musicality is how Kristeva described depression’s speech

Cleaning out the sink drain

The melted cheese

The soggy muesli

My life can pass like this

Waiting for beauty

Tomorrow—I say

A life is a thing you have to start

The fridge is a thing with weak magnets, a little sweaty on the inside

A bag of shriveled lime

Arugula frozen then thawed then frozen again, still sealed

I haven’t touched anyone in a year

You asked for beauty, and one morning, a small blue eggshell on the stoop, shattered open, its contents gone

Likely eaten

M asked if I’ve ever made a choice to live and why

I lied the way you lie to the suicidal

few times, I said—not Most days

Most mornings

No, not morning

Morning I am still new

Still possible, I’m still possibly

Usually by 3:00

When grandmother died, she hadn’t been called beautiful in at least half a century

Is never described as such

Her fallen stockings, the way she spit, thwack of the meat cleaver, the little bones she sucked clean and piled on her plate, not really looking at anyone, and certainly not me