I was fascinated by my parents’ grown up rituals — shaving, make-up, getting ready for their adult world. I reached for the mystery of it, so present in my daily life, yet so far away from my own childhood routine. Religion was the same in my family’s experience. I observed my father’s prayer practice, hands cupped around his Buddha charms, moving with his breath as he kneeled. When he wasn’t looking, I fingered his display of small Buddha statues and ragged postcards next to his bed. My parents observed my world, too, taking me to Catholic mass on Sundays. Somehow, our different experiences came together, shared but not shared, connected by our interest in each other. 

In the mornings,

I watched my father shave.

Perched on the edge

of the toilet seat,

I studied the glide of metal

over skin,

cutting rows through

white cream.


And my mother,

with her dots of lotion

and colored powders.

Opening eyes wide –

like an upright doll –

for the wand of inky mascara.

Lips stretched,




I reached into their adult world

in the same way I reached for prayer:

watching the blur

of my father’s praying hands,

the quick slip of Buddha charms

inside his undershirt,

where they beat

alongside his heart.


They watched, too.

Perched on the edge of pews,

they watched over the

prayers of my world,

committed to observation,

and something more:

to reaching toward my life

a little, to stepping

just barely inside –

not into knowledge or


but simply into view.