Poetry / June 2014 (Issue 24)

Cao Gio

by Randy Kim

The mother lays her husband flat and smoothes
the bones beneath his skin, like an architect
unrolling a schematic sea. She finds meaning
in the lines — the creases in his flesh are jagged
paper frays, his bruises are aged beyond the weight
of a twenty-pound bag of rice, its stippled grains
are the remains of an ancient healing ritual:

First, she paints the mark of a coin
along his chest and wrings the sickness
from his soul. Then, she waits for his blood
to brown. She is tangled now by last night's
dress and her husband's sputtering-engine breaths
that slide down into a slow, quiet idle.

At the funeral, the monk will bless her
with a long and prosperous life. She will flatten
the wrinkles in her dress, and she will laugh.
She will say, "Hopefully, not too long."
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