by Jessica Pham
I knew a woman
who dreamt of traveling the world,
who wished to see every country
like a map unfurled at her feet.
That dream silently died,
murdered by the responsibilities of raising children
that weren’t even her own,
so she passed that dream onto me —
now I constantly roam while she stays still.
I swallow every foreign street name
and stomach every new language
so I can bring it back to her
like Hawaiian sand in a souvenir jar.
I rip the expanses of New York City
out from my memories
and press the footsteps of 8 million New Yorkers into her hands
so that the lines on her palms
become the cracks on the city’s sidewalks.
She gave up seeing the world
just to see me grow up,
so I pick up
paintings from The Louvre,
Irish shamrocks and Venetian canals
and store them in my pocket
so I can bring them home for her.