As if coaching  words to swim  across oceans  for her mother, my mother

shouts into the phone  to help her family hear  or understand.  For years, she’s been adding

dollars  to add minutes  to buy time  she gets to speak  to family  who have forgotten

all of the details:  how much sugar  she takes in her chai,  if she spells her name

with a ‘t’ or a ‘th’.   I wonder is this why  she clings so tightly,  why I’m twenty

and she’s still  hiding matches  in the back of the cabinet,  throwing out gifted candles

before I can light them.  She sees my hair  catch fire  before I strike a match

before the detector  breathes smoke  and screams.  Every meal, Mom says  to move my glass

away from the edge.  She sees it shatter  before it reaches  my hand,  before it leaves

the table.  Studies have shown  immigrants in isolation  from their communities  experience

significantly higher rates  of psychosis.  Sometimes I wonder  what she would have been like

if she’d never left Bangalore.  Maybe if she had family  to argue with  she wouldn’t be

scrapping  with the silence,  laughing  at the air.  On a whim, Mom cashes in

her retirement  so we  can see Switzerland  but I can’t  stomach the blues,  the greens,

the mountains melding  in the train window  because Mom  props her magazine

with her middle fingers  to flash them  at the woman  across the aisle.  As always I forget

to document  the good.  How Mom waits  while I browse  watercolor sets  in the art

supply store  as trails dim  and the animals  go into hiding  on the mountain

she longs to hike.  How she waits  while my brother  lights candles  in new cathedrals

of a church  she’s been  abandoned by.  How, despite her growling  stomach, Mom saves

her packs  of airline pretzels  so my brother and I  have snacks  for later.

The instant camera  doesn’t snap  her smile  on the train.

It just captures  the blur  of trees  we leave behind.

Nina Boals is a writer from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Indiana University-Bloomington, where she is currently the poetry editor of Indiana Review. In her writing, she is searching for a language of compassion to explore mental health and complex family dynamics.