Angela Narciso Torres
Warm Spell, February
For the first time in weeks the wind doesn’t cut like an insult.
My dog feels it too. I slacken her leash so she can dig her nose
in the wet underbrush, letting her sniff as long as she likes.
A woman walking on a San Francisco beach once told me,
We need to give them time—meaning the dog, snout-deep in tangled
seaweed. To them, it’s like reading a good book. Somewhere I read
Haruki Murakami trained for marathons the way he writes—
pushing his legs to the next mile like he pushed his pen to the end
of one sentence, then the next. Today I’m in no rush. I tread
slowly, sipping the air the way the Pacific Ocean swallowed
our brown bodies just outside Manila, our mothers
waving us back to steamed rice, fried fish, mango on a stick.
Why do I remember? Would I think of this now if the air weren’t
soft with last night’s showers, warm as a mother’s breast? Would I dare
to say, the twigs are chandeliered with rain like pearls from a girl’s ear?
I breathe. For the first time in weeks I’m returned to my skin.
It was something we watched for
but never saw—the gecko unsheathing
her translucent full-body tunic,
a record of growth like the rings
of a live oak, every wrinkle, dent,
and bump intact. Eight years
on a sunny ledge by a window
slinking around in a tank lined
with egg cartons and yogurt cups
and never once did we catch her
in the act. It was almost always
morning when we’d find
the sheath in a corner—crumpled
like satin a woman slips from
in haste, rippling to the floor,
still warm with her scent. Perched
on a rock, the gecko gleamed yellow
as a ripe mango, one bright eye
to the sun, the other to our rapt faces,
looking older than the mountains
wiser than the sea.
Eucalyptus trees root where we left them,
lining the road that winds to the house
where our sons were born. Trunks twist
toward the sky like Michelangelo’s
marble gods. Fewer evergreens, more
parking garages than I can recall. Our Lady
of Peace has lost her gleam and heft.
In the vacant lot where the boys rode bikes
and hunted peeper frogs by moonlight
a stadium has bloomed overnight.
Floodlights shine like tin against
a blackened sky, throwing shadows
on a sidewalk that still bears the scars
from our son’s first skateboard.
Here in these cracked
walls of mortar and wood,
of mother’s daily erasures
and father’s thinning
wrists—here in this
rests my father’s watch
its gold weave band
gone from amber to
dun, the latch empurpled
to iridescent plum. The time
is always 5:17, the second
hand still at forty-two,
the face’s tiny window declares
Thursday the twenty-first
of some long buried month.
Why the second hand, and not
the third? By what magic
did minutes keep ticking
by a few shakes of his wrist
as though he were playing
maracas, solemn-faced, while
mother put on her makeup? What
made the dots, one for each hour,
the hands that moved with the sun
glow green in the dark?
Why that day, that minute,
that second? The mute face stares
through years of scruff and grime.
My father dozes in his chair.
A symphony lingers to its close,
the conductor beating time.
Angela Narciso Torres is the author of Blood Orange (Willow Books Poetry Prize). Her work appears or is forthcoming in POETRY, Quarterly West, Missouri Review, Cortland Review, and PANK. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA program and Harvard Graduate School of Education, Angela has received fellowships from Bread Loaf and Ragdale Foundation. She was recently awarded the 2019 Yeats Poetry Prize by the W.B. Yeats Society of New York. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she is a senior and reviews editor for RHINO and a reader for New England Review.