Goodnight, moon, goodnight, room.
The familiar words of the bedtime board book keep me awake, tired eyes wide.
I have only two more pages to make my final art piece,
only five more words to make my peace.
Each syllable brings me closer to the Last page of the childhood story.
It is the day after the Last day of school, but I cannot leave
my art until it looks just the way I picture it:
the eyes of my cubist face strain to see the light in the tunnel,
looking forward and behind me.
I paint the Last scrap of cardboard with orange and Picasso blue to match my
California Oranges shirt.
My hand is snapping pictures
for my scrapbook:
me in my California Oranges shirt, arms over my classmates’ shoulders.
The Last missionary potluck, finally our family’s turn in the center of the circle, praying
hands on our shoulders.
My hand is packing boxes:
A good luck pennant a friend wire-wrapped, a kanga cloth signed by each family
at the Lake Victoria beach restaurant, the Last of eight farewell parties.
Once a box is packed, I do not want to see the contents too soon. It is not worth the hurt to slit open the packing tape before we arrive.
Goodnight, necklace. Goodnight, lake.
It is the day after the Last day of school, so instead of uniform, I am wearing
my California Oranges shirt. It is my favorite shirt,
the one I always cry in.
I wore it the previous Last Time. I wore it when I told the youth group about the
loneliness since the previous Last Time.
My hand has packed so many boxes I could do it in my sleep.
Goodnight – I must stay awake,
lest my hand mistake
the cardboard pages of the book for a box, flip too fast,
pack up my Past,
and tape the cover shut with a slam. I keep my fingers occupied with a camera or a pen,
trying to capture
the correct ending.
The previous ending was
the incorrect ending, the nightmare. This Time will still be an ending, so it might not be happy,
but it must resolve. By wearing the same shirt as the previous Last Time, I will
rewrite that ending too.
This Time I will not offer a feeble quote to the punk kid, a Band-Aid on my guilt for how we bullied each other. I am saying sorry now, not three years later, not over facebook. With all the tears in my journal now, I will have no more to use for the next year.
My hand is scribbling letters. Then I have permission to make new friends at my new school, because the old ones know I cared.
My hand is snapping pictures. This way I won’t be distraught if we don’t keep in touch.
My hand is moving boxes,
trying to weary my arms so I can sleep.
In my scrapbook,
the stacks of boxes will obscure true memory.
My room will look like a cardboard tunnel,
scrawled with “FRAGILE” as graffiti. No masterpieces will hang in the hollow hallway.
Before I started taking pictures,
the Christmas ornaments were gently rewrapping themselves into boxes, the stools already vanishing to their new owners. As I walk through for the Last Time,
my whispered goodbyes are already missing
their familiar objects:
Goodnight, mosquito net. Goodnight, mattress on the floor.
Goodnight, I won’t sleep here anymore.
Perhaps I will return,
but this backyard will not be mine. There will be no silver Land Cruiser under the car port here, the “Hodi!” at the gate will not call for me. The papaya by the kitchen window
will not be mine to eat…
The moon spotlights a guava in the grass.
This is mine to eat, Now.
I grasp it awkwardly as I climb the ladder
of our mini-water tower. Halfway up, I swing my body onto a plywood platform, let legs dangle,
two feet above the clothesline.
Goodnight, guava. Goodnight, moon.
This month, we had laundry buckets full of fruit. Dad convinced Mom to make
to squeeze the most out of our Last guava season.
Reason told her she had no lack
of boxes to pack,
but she did it anyway, just for him. For the past week, we have eaten only Home
-made guava sauce, yogurt and granola. As I bite into the light yellow-green skin, I discover
my tongue still savors fleshy pink sweetness,
my teeth have not exhausted the pleasure of crunching yellow seeds.
Guavas have no core:
when you are done there is nothing
to show or throw away.
The more I taste, the more I want to postpone the Last bite.
I nibble at it.
Goodbye home, I leave you soon.
Tomorrow I will have earned this Ending, finished
writing the story I want.
I have plodded through my scrapbook, listing every place, every relationship, diligently saying,
I am thirteen years too old for this children’s book, but
I am not tired of the story.
I am just tired.
My eyes are cried dry.
My hand closes the Last cardboard. My fingers let go
of the pen. As I swallow the Ending,
it is sweet, and then
it is gone.