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I Will End the Line of My Ancestors

ISSUE:  Fall 2021


Some days, I sail on an empty boat to a country I don’t know.
With my navy-blue passport, I can go anywhere.

This breaks my heart. I can be anywhere, and everywhere
I left carries on without me.

In California, the drought whispers to the water:
Come back. The San Andreas Fault creases like the fate 

line in my palm. The one that’s vertical. The one 
that breaks at my wrist. The Santa Cruz Mountains 

         from my childhood do not touch 
the coast they pine for. Snow crowns 
         only their highest ridges. 

I have always cherished this land that was not 
         mine. I have always cherished this landmine. 

In Los Altos, my mother lives alone in a small studio 
         efficiency. Every day she wakes up on a bed
I used to sleep in. I imagine her drinking coffee, 

opening her laptop and searching the same websites 
         for a job. I imagine her boiling sweet potatoes 
alone, dreading dusk light and another wasted day. 

In 1999, my mother had a malignant tumor removed
         from her leg. In the hospital room, 
I remember staring at the needle
         in her arm. At twelve, I promised
                             I’d be good,
                             I’d believe in God

if she survived. Those days, my mother said she wanted 
         to die. The words always under her breath 
         but audible. She survived. She survived. 

In Sunnyvale, my father lives alone in a three-story townhouse. 
Every day, he tries to lift the garage door whose sensors 
         have stopped working.
Every day, he tries to repair the faucets, the showerheads, 
                             the washing machine 
with his own hands. To fix
         this would cost too much, he says. Health 
         insurance costs too much, he says. 

On Sundays he goes to the free health clinic at Stanford. 
         Every day, he takes medication for his maladies.
His heart, pumping the blood too slow. His lungs, the color
         of storms and ashes. How long has this house 
                     been without electricity? How long will he long
                     for what’s absent?

Together, the three of us survived the passage here. 
         Apart now, the three of us 
         are each alone. That is the only thing left we have 
                     in common. 
You are still young, they tell me. You are still young.

It is spring. It is summer. It is fall. The nation votes
         for the wound to keep gushing. 
I broke my hospital-room promises to God. 
I am not good. I do not believe. Love has a way 
         of not existing.

Some days, I recall where my ancestors were buried—
         by a seaside city, near a smooth gray lake, its surface flat 

like a mirror. I visited this lake once, when I was fifteen.
Mist rose from the cliffside temples, making everything sad
         seem serene. 

In my dream I was on my knees at the cemetery 
         in Hangzhou. I carried barren offerings: stony fruit, 

crabapples hard as bone. I could not face the headstones
         because I could not admit: Your line ends here, 

with me, my mother’s only child. Your bloodline ends 
         with my fate line, my parched San Andreas, 

         my fault, a line
         from my imperfect poem.



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