To 2017-2018


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    By Maya Joseph

When I stole away from my grandfather's den of green linoleum floors and masala, I hid in the curves of the tea-colored monstrous marble arches of my uncle's bungalow. 

Monsoon season burst into raging rivers, tantrums of storms that seemed as if they would last forever, and faded just as quickly into spells of an intolerable sun's ominiscient eye.

Yet his rosebushes still spread pillowy petals, his magnolias dotted the road with bright hot embers that even the fire ants feared. 

My uncle grew an Eden in an island, orange trees dripping with citrine jewels, creamy white flowers that smelled of my mother's perfume, and all I remember of him is his motorcycle churning dust in our wake. 

My grandfather had no garden but rather hands like stories, drawing maps on his knees. I remember the honeysuckle. Ambrosia. Goldenrod. I remember tearing darling little black-headed yellow flowers, frenzied, laying them on his lap with uncommon gentleness. 

He taught me of the beauty of the birds, of flight, of oh, how their wings skimmed the clouds, of oh, how they cultivated their own romances, sang their own songs -! 

I was an indolent, imaginative child, sticky mango-hands and wide-open eyes. Those songs I could sing, those curlicued tomes I could devour, they faded into murmurs, into vague recollections, soon after I left that garden. 

I plucked petals from the pathways and paved small towns with pebbles, always watchful for the birds. I picked up a blue wing dipped in ink, a white wing ringed in red, one in each hand until oh, here was a bird, her broken body strewn in the bushes, a bird my grandfather had never told me about. 

When I saw her silent wings, too minute, too intricate to be anything but the work of fairies, my feathers dropped to the soil underneath, and I tore through the orchards to show my grandfather my own discovery.

I cannot remember the familiar scratch of his voice, just what he said, of the bird that wasn't a bird, of the butterfly, how she was like the flowers I gave him, so beautiful and so breakable, so readily destroyed by eager hands. One wing was all that was left of her fragile, trembling beauty - I kept it in a red box until I threw it away. 

A child is one of the few who feels boundless love, unfettered and free, yet still of those incapable of expressing their love's depth. I remember the flowers, the drone of the flies swimming in nectar, I remember green linoleum and candied mango. I remember his words. I remember his love. 

Wherever he is, I hope he remembers mine.