the deliberate concision of words
what is excised lifted instead of falling away
present for every intimate moment
the room requiring this paring
from lovemaking to grief to climbing in and out
of a wheelchair because I can't bear
any position to get to the hospital room,
intestine looped shut
lifted and set
here, as private as pain gets
in the emergency room
private as cupped hands
for the flicker
I don't know your grief, only its profile
when I look at you, my friend.
The black shape of paper
cut by your mother perfectly alive then absolutely—
My mother a few weeks later.
You called when the press of ritual
and practical was done, your message
playing into my dull brain the last night
in the hospital. Volunteers chanted
hour after hour beside my mother's body.
At the end, they said her face smiled.
Full light for full shadow.
A Buddhist chant for a corpse
in a wing meant for recovery. An elevator
that stops at every floor on the Sabbath.
A building with no fourth floor
because the Chinese four is a homonym
I had been told it was coming quickly by one
doctor while another plotted the next
treatment, another pondered
taking her home.
When the minute snipped,
I was present and
Then the call to my brother. Like someone's call
After years of uncertainty, I had expected
vigil. Wonder when you know
someone is dying—Grandmother,
the 97-year-old neighbor, the niece in hospice—
Is it today, this hour?
I don't know your grief, only the longing
for what isn't here.
Call upon the Compassionate Buddha
to melt her karma, take her
to the Pure Land.
We clear the room, leave
the light, a blank sheet of paper.
'“Salvage” arose out of lines I cut from a poem called “Room of Requirement” about witnessing my mother's pain in the hospital. While the original poem was strengthened, I felt compelled to consider what I'd removed and rescue it.
I have Arthur Sze to thank for prodding me beyond a clunky metaphor in “Silhouette” to search deeper and expose what was really in my heart. The result is both a turning inward and reaching out. The structure was influenced by John Edgar Wideman's short story “Newborn Thrown in Trash and Dies.”'
Jane Lin is a poet, teacher, and software engineer, and manages a small HW/SW company in Northern New Mexico. She received her MFA from New York University, a fellowship from Kundiman, and scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and Taos Summer Writers' Conference. Poems have recently appeared in Asian American Literary Review, Cura, jmww, and Spoon River Poetry Review. Her first book, Day of Clean Brightness, is forthcoming from 3: A Taos Press.