i have tried to catalogue my own
mutation as my body peels
gradually away from the place
i come from.
i cannot recognize this shape
anymore, each time i walk
on a straight edge it feels like a border,
any line becomes a carving of land.
i can’t think about the blue
of water without
thinking about the drought anymore, i forget
which language belongs where.
my geographies are all mismatched, even the color
of my skin doesn’t give
any clues. i cannot keep track of which
memories are mine and what
my grandmother passed down. i know
what it means to look in the mirror and see
an outline.

this starts with the tongue:
in six years there are sounds
i have forgotten how to make. parts
of my own mouth i haven’t
accessed. there are entire languages i once
spoke that now mock me,
we called this a changing
of an accent. or hemisphere.
everything tastes of oil. or
i cannot trust my tongue to tell
them apart anymore. this
is the first way i broke
my body. no bones, just
the muscle i use to speak.

i asked my mother once, why
we hold our hands out
in prayer. my mother, who stays up
late into the night
to pray for my brother and i on days
we have forgotten to return
her calls. her palms facing
the sky because my mother
has always known God won’t send
a prayer back empty-handed. this
is how you break your hands
by not using them,
by getting used to
the feeling of empty. my hands
became something else
when they forgot about
my mother’s God. once,
my hands spoke to the sky
everyday for years. now i try
to remember the feeling
of asking
for something
without speaking,
that the body can even
do that.

my father is always
losing things.
first he
lost his work then
his anger then
his health. these
things come back to visit
every now and then.
my father had
a part of him
cut out before
it could mutate to
something bigger.
sometimes i catch him
looking for the missing mass.
he gets smaller
every time i visit. each time
i have to guess
what causes this.
an illness, prayers
returning empty-handed, my
mother getting older
beside him, an empty
house in a country his
father begged to be buried in.
I pray my father
big again, pray for him volume,
pray shoulders straight.
I pray for something similar every time
he lets the agent
at the airport talk down
to him.

the fbi agent reading my emails
asks why all my writing is about
i come from,
i tell them:
some people have
bodies, and
some people have
mutations. i
keep track of all the places
i go
in case
i drop
something, like
a crumb, or
a country.