By Elizabeth Octavina Aritonang
A crisp fall Sunday, all gathered on the stairs
The Holy space where people come to relieve their sins
The light end of a solemn service
Of all places, this is where they meet.
My mother’s rosy, high cheek bones twitch.
He’s noticed her, and she’s noticed him.
The eye contact flickers, for only a moment.
It dies down, but the excitement inflates bit by bit.
He strolls up to her, in a proper manner,
My great aunt watching from a distance.
I want to run and scream and holler
Don’t create me, WALK AWAY!
You don’t know what you’re going to do.
Go back to the islands, to your wife and kids,
Leave my mother alone, in her young and lonely life.
His dark skin and eyes belonging to her,
They’ve captured her, and she’s drowning
in his presence and she doesn't even know it.
She lowers her eyes, at the scarf she’s twisting,
Black and white flowers intertwined and flowing,
Her hands still smooth, her nails painted bright red,
His hands edging towards hers, longing.
He’s asked her for a stroll and maybe some tea?
Mother, please step back and look at this man,
Mother, can you see me here, all these years later, crying?
He will lie and promise and lie and promise
Please don’t let him turn your hair gray
And your fingernails into dust.
You will spend forever waiting for him.
What you don’t know, you will know.
So you take his hand and his warm smile
and let your youth possess you.
Elizabeth Octavina Aritonang is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York majoring in economics and journalism. This is her first published poem. Her inspiration is Sharon Olds' poem, "I Go Back to May 1937."