The word in Hokkien is street
where the city lifts its hem
to show true story behind true curtain,
soft as arms draped on the couch of memory,
from first home to last hideout, from first trespass
to the last loot of boyhood.
And the word in Hokkien is alley,
what runs across the ocean from continent to courtyard:
a shortcut that is only one word long.
The word in Hokkien is star,
sun that was so eager to play
we could trick it into being the ball we kicked
between the goal posts of twilight,
in a home field that stretched to the limit of Sunday.
The word in Hokkien is bread,
the crumbs you sprinkled to trace your way
back to where you first met your name,
the glaze on your hands that taught you
to hold on to the crust you didn't understand,
sticky with the promise to be one day,
in the permanent sugar of the blood,
the childhood that will grow from you.
The word in Hokkien is rain,
that first dialect of water that could
retell a street from asphalt to skin,
the percussion that kept count of you:
with its perfect beat,
all the Mondays you talked into skipping school.
(You did cross the ocean once to look for him:
the afternoon you left under the eaves,
still shivering but much older.
The rain had aged. But one word in Hokkien,
and you were two old men walking in an old rain)
And the word in Hokkien is home
a home that is itself coming home,
standing at your gate like a prodigal all grown up.