Dirty Water

by May Hong

I saw through the café window someone carving
through puddles on a skateboard, the bottom-half
of his khakis darkened like shin guards.

Post-rain is not song-worthy
where I’m from. In fact, if you dare drink
it’d taste like pink cough syrup, sweet

till bitter. The mayor dove
into the Pearl River once, to prove
a point. At least three sets of arms pulled him out
within 30 seconds at most, and hustled him
into the back of a white minivan, syringes at the ready.

My brother is the last to leave, or perhaps the first
to stay. For his birthday
I mailed him anti-pollution masks by a company
called Respro®, because everything is made better here

right? I was told
that the Charles River isn’t exactly safe either, but at least
it freezes, if you dare walk. It would cut my commute

in half. I always wonder
which crackling step will cost me, like a game of reverse
whack-a-mole. Not exactly miraculous, is it, we still have plenty left

to fear. The parted
puddle has resettled into a steady
mid-rhythm rain, though I can’t see the drops,
only their ripples.