Terrifically alone in tulips
the rain made of the South China Sea
I swam toward a tiny island scrimmed with washed-up coral
and purple shells.
I saw how many perfect ones
waited for me. Giddy,
ashore, I pawed through them, straightened up
only when my hands were full. It was
like realizing I’d put on someone else’s jacket
by accident. The joy was not my own.
My mother was the one
who could never leave