Gail Ghai


My mother watched the kitchen
clock as if her life was ticking
down: 6:03, 6:17, 6:31

        our hunger clanging like copper wind chimes
        on the back porch. 6:47, 6:52, 7:03, waiting,
        waiting for our father, the pilot to return.

While we picked at the roast, sneaked cucumber
slices, dipped our rude fingers into the gravy,
I could taste my mother's disappointment.

        We hurried through lukewarm potatoes,
        wilted salad, sinewy roast, anxious
        to get back to our fortune n Pacific Avenue,

solve the vital secret in Nancy Drew, or play
with our wacky budgie, Binki who pecked out
neat pink triangles of the Monopoly fives.

        A cozy fifties after-dinner scene--our grandfather's
        honey tobacco pipe mingling in the air of the noisy
        November night. But our father was missing;

he was always missing out on our lives. Once when he
was home, he fed Binki rum and coke then howled
as she zigzagged, rolled from side-to-side,

        skidded down the table's chrome runway
        in a flurry of lemon-lime whirls, landing
        in the butter. She sank into its soft yellowness.

My sisters and I screamed.
Our father snorted with laughter
as Bink’s small slick feathers quivered

        as she tried to unfold, to lift, tried
        to ascend out of grease and chaos.
        Her bright red eyes blazed in panic.