Din of grungy mahjong slot machines, smoke thick as port-town smog, slurps of Chongqing hot noodle soup
Watery lager, grease stains, and spit riddled the cement floor,
For the right price she could decipher them too —
“Too many eyes on you and this,”
Boss held up her coveted notebook: reason for month-long interrogation in satellite communist country
“Get out for now, go to some small town in the States. No one pays attention there. Have a couple kids, work at, say, a Christian camp–”
Had she understood “Christian camp” correctly?
What did that have to do with her?
She didn’t want to get mixed up with Jesus people and a language too foreign and strange even for her to ever learn
And she sure as hell didn’t want to go to America.
But in robotic servility she ended up trading
Revolvers and reconnaissance for rebozos and religion —
“We’ll be in touch. Just don’t forget who you work for.”
A snap back to present time with those words and smell of burning cassoulet on stovetop,
Pet dog whining at back door
Those words haunted her, as they hadn’t been in touch and she had forgotten.
School board meetings and Sunday morning contralto hymn-singing now,
She profoundly lost sight of her mission
Saturated in domestic duties, fat folds of babies’ soft skin, perennial blooms in her mountain garden, she’d forgotten how dangerous she and her billion-dollar secrets were to enemy’s agenda.
Though she’d ripped out crucial translations before handing object of world’s lust over to Boss, those pages years ago torn up in unsupervised toddler tactile learning moment, and though she’d memorized the codes when she thought she was going to be buried alive in the Laotian jungle–
Those faraway mantras now blended with improvised lullabies
Had they gotten what they’d wanted all along as they spun like wisps of ghost on the periphery as she held a naked baby on her hip staring out at the paper-thin poppies shuddering in the wind?
©2018, Amaya Engleking
Written for Björn’s narrative poetry prompt at dVerse.