I turned on the ceiling fan to spread the smoke from the incense but now the room is too cold and my hairs are on end. Pulled the chain three times to set it on low, but I still can’t count how many blades are turning. My eyes turn with them before my head goes too.
Two short chains hang like a graduation cord, swaying in tandem. I remember what that meant on the playground. Is it still called marriage? Uniform feet, lean back together.
I drag John’s favorite blanket from underneath the coffee table and pull it over my legs and up to my chest.
The incense stands in the soil of potted bamboo—the same lucky bamboo I bought at Costco, grown four feet over the past year. Jenny’s her name. Jenny is a big girl now. I watch the smoke as it climbs up her stalks and winds when she does, before dissipating. I imagine, in bamboo years, that Jenny has just started high school. Filled out and come into herself.
I understand the stick will keep burning until I extinguish its core—what looks to be a thin strand of blue thread from what has already burned and now hangs, gray and ashy. The shopkeeper said the continuous smoke from incense relies on the balance of its wet (oil, resinous) and dry materials. I wondered how something could keep burning after being blown out. He said when the balance is met, it won’t be immediately overtaken by its ember, or burn so slowly that the ember dies.
Izzy leaves her guard at the balcony door and lumbers onto the couch one leg at a time—the first of her back legs, cycling forward as if turning a pedal, trying to grab hold of the edge of the seat cushion. She wags her tail, licks my ear, and lies against my side on the blanket.
She knows she’s not allowed on it, but also that I let her when John isn’t home. He doesn’t like seeing her threads of black hair; they make his skin itch. So I get it with the lint roller before returning it under the table.
He said it’s his favorite because it came from his mom. Left it folded on his bed when he came back from Iraq. Wrapped it around his sisters and him on the fourth of July when the firecrackers sounded like bullets and the fireworks, bombs.
James A.H. White is an emerging writer completing his MFA in Poetry at Florida Atlantic University. He is a winner of the 2014 AWP Intro Journals Project Award in Poetry and 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Gertrude, Hermeneutic Chaos, Tahoma Literary Review, and DIAGRAM, among others. His chapbook hiku [pull] is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press.