september mournings
— stephanie tom

My mother always filled the sugar bowl after two weeks,

gentle hand lifting a silver spoon to clink against the mug,


dusting glittering grains into her coffee every morning. The

coffee swirled around the rim, sugar crystals swallowed like


sand into the ocean. The mound of sugar always rose and fell,

but never enough to empty itself. So the cycle goes.


Every morning, I opened the windows with the peonies outside

while mother sipped her coffee and watched the school bus


shudder down the road and take us away. The spoon never

stopped turning, a clink against the mug for every tick of the


second hand, long after the bus filled with children peeled

into the early sun. Mother only closed the windows after the


sun rose too high into the sky, almost yellow enough that it’d be

impossible to see the school bus return if it ran against the sky.


That was then.


The sun didn’t rise so early yesterday, after the storm clouds

rolled in too quickly the night before that. We were almost


asleep, but we heard the windows shudder and squeeze tighter

into their frames from the winds that moaned that night,


ghosting through the street under the rumbling of rainfall.

Yesterday morning, the windows were opened, but the smell of


the peonies didn’t waft upwards. I went downstairs and saw

mother making coffee as usual, the foaming mug steaming.


Behind her, all of the clocks flashed red. When the storm had

stolen the scent of perennials, it stole away the electricity.


Midnight was a ghost passed hours ago but frozen in the

early morning, its red numbers blinking alternate to the clink


of the sugar spoon melting the residual crystals. I ran out to

the school bus just before it disappeared into the sun.


Mother didn’t watch us leave from the window. I didn’t notice

that for the first time in weeks, the sugar bowl was empty.


Stephanie Tom is a Chinese-American poet and a rising freshman at Cornell University. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poetry has either appeared or is forthcoming in Rising Phoenix Review, The Blueshift Journal, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among other places. In addition, she has previously been recognized by the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the International Torrance Legacy Creativity Awards, and the international Save the Earth Poetry Contest.