Among the mothers I remember today — Mother’s Day — is my grandmother Chansom. I never knew her. She died of cancer when my mother, the youngest of eight children, was still in high school. She is a ghost to me. The spirit world in which she lives is one that I have had to imagine from the handful of stories told to me by my mother and aunties, along with an old family portrait of her surrounded by her children. She, like so many who die young, has become the most beautiful, graceful of ghosts, gliding through a world I imagine.


This lives and moves

in imagination:  a black and white

story to match the photo

from which she steps out

and into the rest of the day.


My grandmother walks

the streets of Chiang Mai,

surrounded by her eight

children.  She is not

harried, but serene, beautiful,

dressed in a blouse, straight skirt,

high heels.  Some of the

children are already young adults,

ready for the world.  They

shepherd the younger ones,

including my pig-tailed

mother, five years old.


My grandmother will die young.

But on this day she glides along

the busy sidewalk, pointing to

the things she wants the oldest

children to buy from the street vendors:

meat, vegetables, sticky rice.

Crowds part, bicycles and motorbikes slow

to let her cross.  She floats through

the gate and into the house that,

years later, will be gone, lost in fire.