FOR HANA-SAN  by Erin Schalk

FOR HANA-SAN by Erin Schalk

Despite a fifteen-hour time difference,

you sent me a message at midnight  

  — your time —

 on a Tuesday.

 Your news flickered

across my screen:

   By the way,

            my mother passed last summer.

 My dear friend,

I am heartily sorry.

 I have been absent for four years

and have not been a dear friend lately.


As that final summer left us,

I faded into a

self-protective absence,

 as you disappeared

behind quiet sorrow.


The last night in Okinawa,

we sat cross-legged

on the floor of the izakaya.


The diffused sapphire glow

from the street lamps

refracted in the ripple glass,

splashing across our lacquered table

like floodlights shining on a pool.


You bought a bottle of Dutch Chardonnay

and could not finish your one delicate glass

as you remembered your childhood —

how your fear of marriage grew from

the poverty found in

each exterior and interior crevice

of your family home.


You told me that after your father died,

your mother ran the bento shop.

Before sunrise,

aromas of fatty pork and fried vegetables

wafted to your second-story classroom.


We would see her shadow cross

the frosted door just before

she entered to greet us

with oiled hands

that threw her hair

back into a bandana.


In July,

she closed the shop early

to dress us in our yukata.


She swathed us in layers

of rose and silver fabric, cinched

with sky-blue obi,

that she folded into

petaled bows.


As autumn beckoned, you made the decision

to live alone,

and unmarried,

in an apartment across town,

even though

your desire for privacy

transgressed her wishes.


You both struck a compromise:

a matchmaking service

in exchange for


your freedom.


As we swallowed the saffron dregs of wine,

you told me I was lucky

and asked how I knew.


I explained that it was only when lingering

doubts lifted.


And the next day,

I crossed the Pacific

to a life with a husband

and future child.


My dear friend,

I am heartily sorry.


I never meant

that our lives would

             ask you to remember …

… and allow me to forget.

GOD'S OWN ROSE  by Jenois Harris

GOD'S OWN ROSE by Jenois Harris

THE DATE by Cheryl McGuire

THE DATE by Cheryl McGuire