Eighteen months after you died,
I spent a week in a hospital bed.
Nurses whispered how strange
pneumonia in someone so young
and normally healthy.

Alone at night, I cried Mama,
is this how you felt?

Hauling a collection of cords out of bed,
tripping, gripping walls like a wounded animal
to get to the bathroom, brush your teeth,
needing to do something normal.

I ran five miles the day before I collapsed.
Months after my discharge, I inch up
a slight hill, stop every few steps gasping.
At the top, I cough so hard I throw up.

I cried in the hall last night remembering
how you used to walk faster than me,
how you stopped every few steps, waited
for my stubby child legs to catch up.

After your lung surgery,
I was the one waiting.

Mama, I finally get it,
why those surgeries broke you.
Why you were so cross about living
even as you did everything to live.

But at the same time I don’t,
because I’ll recover.



Collapse by Anders Pearson

Painting “collapse” by anders pearson used under Creative Commons License (BY-SA-2.0)


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About Author

Jenny Qi is a writer, scientist and co-founder of the storytelling podcast Bone Lab Radio. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Huffington Post. Her poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Off the Coast, and Spry, and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is currently based in San Francisco.

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