I am looking for war, trying to understand my family, I am interviewing the enemy, and they tell me: It was dark; I was blown back ten meters; everything was flat; they were walking like ghosts, their hands in front of them; their skin hung like rags; they were crying for water. They were crying “help me,” “itai,” “it hurts.” The whole city was silent, a city of ashes and not a single sound. It was black; it was red; everything was gray and hot, so hot; it was beautiful. A young woman tells me how white the bones at her feet were, the ones in what used to be in her living room, and how they gleamed in the sun. I am telling you how she described them.

Her mother’s bones.

—from “Skin,” published in Topography of War: Asian American Essays, 2006