By May Hong
beloved red-wax ears listened in on the
conversations in that hospital room-home. Washed-out smiles,
diluted days, and well-meaning fruit baskets left half-
eaten. Machine beeps kept time as you
fought against all those turned cells.
Gold coin on each eye, to
help you stay under when you eventually fell
into indelible sleep, and an extra in the mouth
just in case there was a toll across the way. Dad and I
knelt and prayed for forty-nine days, almost enough for each
letter to go in twice, but
my alphabet is no good, to you they were
nothing more than trinkets strung into
odd little fences.
Peonies now, embroidered on the
quilt so that they might outlast us all.
Rust-crusted thread scissors, an un-rocked chair, and trembling leaf
shadows, all boxed up in sun-dried afternoon. I swallow my
twenty-six in your bedroom like muscle memory, in light of
undusted shelves, dashes of
vertical calligraphy, and a
wilted calendar from 2009 with red,
X-ed out days—while
you, a framed still life, sit
zoned out by the window.