My mother asked if I would come home.
I had been sick for months.
Nights of fever and glaciers,
of crackling coughs that sounded
like fire eating wood, nights
my stomach came into my throat, leaving
something of myself on
the cement floor.
The nurse in the village could not tell me why.
But the children, the children, the children—
running, naked black feet
kicking up dirt as they moved
to the gardens, ordered to pick
tomatoes, the ones that looked like the dying
sun; who struck unripened mangos
from trees, eating their still sour
interior, a gift they offered to me;
they are the ones who teach me
how the bean plant is pulled,
back bent, fingers grasping
where stem meets earth,
how they are laid in the heat
of the afternoon, shells drying
and hardening, so that in the evening
they can be to pulled high above
heads and brought down quick
and unforgiving, beans bursting forth
from their containers to scatter, little
ones scurrying to gather what will
become the nighttime meal;
they are the ones who laugh
when I speak, who show me
how to dance, how to kneel
down near the sacks of grain and pray,
beads in hand, when sleep neared.
The most silent time of the day.
So when my mother asks, like crops
thirsting for heavy rain, I find no words
to tell her, or myself, or the children;
in my language or theirs.
Kai Hoffman-Krull currently lives in Tacoma, Washington, at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. During the days he works on a farm with adults from the home. Recently he has had poetry published by Silenced Press , The Driftwood Review , The Oak Bend Review, and The Houston Literary Review .