Volume 25, Number 2

Rai, Love

For weeks, I didn’t know if you were a boy or girl
or a sprite of unleavened androgyny
holding secrets for those whose ears had wings

but it didn’t matter, I loved you all the same.

You told me your name itself
meant love, your broken English
interchanging pronouns,
and how many breakfasts we ate in the heat,
the dozens of mangosteens taken from the ground,
dripping slyly from the corners
of our mouths, talking with our hands and our faces
because our tongues did not match for miles.

You’d shaved all your hair off
to mourn your grandfather,
to esteem his movement between worlds,
because that is the way of your Buddhism,

and it did not matter
that he was dismayed you would
not carry on his name.

You clutch your chest,
carrying his legacy of affections:
it will not matter where they land.

For weeks, I didn’t know if I should kiss you,
but for every mangosteen that fell near us in the shade,
there was a kiss waiting to land,
and it did not matter if that landing never came:
do you know how brightly you beamed?

And then, when I passed you kissing a boy in violet
high heels and blue cotton dress, you blushed
as though I’d seen your ghosts,
and tossed the pink off your cheek with a giggle,
knowing that tomorrow
          we’d peel more mangosteens
          and tell each other stories of loving
in the in-between.

—Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes