Passing

I drove by.

The place where I ate the greasy burger
before giving birth to my youngest son.

The place my granddaddy took my brother and me when we were little
and said a quiet prayer to bless our hot dogs and milkshakes.
Orange booth seat secured to the floor, awkward distance
to the table for my young body.

The place where—driving past—I saw a man who could
have been my dad.
Patting his round belly; lifting himself
into his pickup truck. Toothpick
in gritted teeth.

Where everyone inside looks like someone who could
be at my family reunion.

Side of the highway. The only decent hot food between the city and my
quiet hometown for many generations.

I continued past,
remembering those tastes, tasting them
again, briefly, long enough to
understand it wasn’t what I needed
on this day.

Neither did I need to unwrap my food
from paper; to eat it in the car, handheld, fast,
messy, unconscious: meal over and barely satisfied.

I continued on
to the Asian café.
Warm washing towel—yes.
Hot tea meticulously prepared and poured.
Fermented soup.
Rice steamed and vegetables barely cooked.
Ice cold water.
Slow. Attention to each bite. The waitress’
face—a face my dad, granddad, perhaps even my brother
wouldn’t have accepted
food from. Too hard—the war, the either/or.

Not all things are worth passing down.

As monuments topple and people cling,
I see the space my ancestors have left behind:
Space I can move through, disloyal
to the once-living
loyal to the now-living (including me)
and the next-living. My children. Theirs.

The eclipse has passed too: sun covered
and uncovered. Within a time brief enough
to see in between meals. The darkness
came and went. The sun will pass too—

It’s only a star—
one placed just close enough to sustain
life, far enough away not to burn.
It’s our star
and we forget that it, too, and we
will end.

The mint comes at the end of the meal
with the check—the amount owed
for all
the service, the food: all grown
from the sun, the earth, our ancestors.

Some things are worth passing down. Yes.
And so we pass.

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