The Foreigners

I.
It could, I suppose, be any where in the world, any season:

a light rain
on red tiles
over which people skitter,
thrown like leaves on the warm-cool air.

In my mouth the ebb taste of a long held wish
giving in.

To be the inheritor of exile
is to be born in search
and doomed to continue.

Yet, rain and its awaking smell
alive and mineral;
Yet time drifting over me
once and again
like waves–
each brusque wash thief of sound;
Yet the click and release
of collision

and, love,
which grows less definite, but more sure:

my great great grandparents hover behind me
or sit
chewing wetly
a few Saltines they have snuck along
for the journey.

I hold their hands in mine
soft as paper folded and refolded.
I raise their hands
to kiss the palms, and the slow wrinkles,

firm and focused as I would the lips of a lover,
discovered beneath flotsam of distraction and nervous noise.

I know less now
perhaps,
but that wish goes hushing in spite or because of my own losing track,
its rigid fire goes dampening–rain, in any alphabet, spells home.

I murmur to the quiet watching of this circle of elderly ghosts,
“And if we call it by a new name? not lost or fleeing, not exiled any longer…?”

A great great grandmother bends toward me, Saltine extended,
in creaky voice replies,
“Have a cracker, bubeleh.”