Mrs. Dhondup says life is not a happy lollipop

and she has said that before. Not in so many words

but when her brother lost his house in a neighborhood fire,

she went out to save what she could; while he went

to his buddies and drank himself to sleep she said

she was “washing her hands off his affairs.” Then next morning

was seen cleaning the yard of embers. She is sitting with mother

who has once again lost her composure and, crying into her hands,

is saying “Really, I would understand everything, if he would only . . .”

Somehow I always lose her last words. They are seated before

the window; I can see how still the world is beyond mother’s shaking

shoulders and Mrs. Dhondup running back and forth

between tea on the stove and loose cleaning rags which she puts

against mother’s cheeks. She taps her finger against the window

to dislodge the ant walking on the outside.

She points towards it and it becomes the object

of their compassion. Mother looks at the ant, and beyond it to endless

space, anticipating a lesson. Life is not a happy lollipop, she says.

She looks towards me as she says it. Her fingers reach

for the window as though to wipe away the image before her.

It is her own but she is looking at something else.