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Passages

Vincent Hao, Austin, TX

 

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sunset strokes us, touches all the symptoms festering

in our skin. you instruct me to hand you an empty glass,

you fill it with prayer, all the sabbath still

needing robes and dresses. conventional wisdom tells us

to never beg and cheat, but you ask forgiveness

the same way you lift

a lilac off a neighbor’s cultivated garden: sickly, as if

the bruises on your neck are anyone’s but

your own. grandma used to crush herbs

in her drink: the aura of sage, thyme, jasmine

temporal in her wake, catalyzing the ferments

of the earth on her skin. when you

were sick, your breaths drifting and tattered, she instructed

me to bathe your feet in warm water,

to watch the veins pronounce their own clarity

until the water was blue with sensation.

we felt for pulses in the earth, watched you fever

and quit. coughs were messengers

sent from the deep reserves of your chest: they

signaled life, a body that still blistered

with energy. when you healed, we sat on the lawn

and you pulled the grass out from the root,

watching the blades vibrate, shiver in the wind’s

swollen tide.

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