Notes to a mother living alone in Kathmandu during a pandemicMay I wake up one summer day to your laughter coming from the kitchen and the smell of butter tea. May the world on the other side of this find a morning not bereft of small mercies.
I haven’t left my apartment in two weeks.
I count the days with the diminishing stack of frozen pizzas.
Afternoons, I partake in a staring-contest ritual with the yellow fire hydrant across the street.
I’ve yet to win.
I call him the Not-Laughing Buddha.
I’m not afraid you say I’ve my Buddha.
Didn’t he die, too? I don’t say.
Upon witnessing disease and old age and death, Prince Siddhartha left his wife and infant son
and palace for a fig tree.
Awakened, he laughed for seven days before saying All this time I had been searching outside...
You see, Ama, there is nothing outside.
From the hawthorn branch, the magpie spits his sawtooth refrain at the construction workers in the church parking lot.
I wake from a dream and walk into a dream.
Last night I dreamt we were at the Boudhanath Stupa. We lit the butter lamps, spun the prayer
wheels, then went to feed the pigeons on the dome. They gathered about your feet as though you
were their matriarch, then a lake rose around you. You stood still, smiling.
I’m more worried about you than me you say you always were a sick child...
I still am. I keep catching cold like the Latua-laced river catches carps, but I can’t afford to let you
worry about anyone else right now.
Wash your hands as though they were the feet of Mayadevi.
Keep your hands away from your face: the forbidden lotus.
If you get lonely, talk to the neighbors from the balcony.
If not the neighbors, the pigeons.
The mountain cannot stop the wind you say.
But you could stop yourself from going out, couldn’t you?
Today police found a funeral home in New York had stored dozens of bodies on ice in U-Haul
Today as I’m writing this, somewhere someone’s mother must be whispering a name for the last
In the backyard, the bees vie for the last apricot blossoms on the topmost branches.
In the clear blue sky above the Canada geese are arrowheading home again. They return to the same
nest year after year. They remember, it is believed, every water they touch.
The wild geese are full of secrets.
Here’s one: I haven’t been home in four years.
And another: You won’t read any of this. You can’t—you’re illiterate.
This way I can write silly things without embarrassing myself like
Today I cooked dahl the way you used to: burnt fenugreek and too much salt.
In the dream, I was feeding the pigeons your prayer beads. They caught the unthreaded seeds midair and dove into the lake. When I hesitated to fling the last bead, you said They’re waiting for you.
From a social distance, I offer a bowl of dahl and the last slice of pepperoni to the Not-Laughing
May I wake up one summer day to your laughter coming from the kitchen and the smell of butter
May the world on the other side of this find a morning not bereft of small mercies.
The Not-Laughing Buddha says nothing.
What the wild geese say, only the sky will know.