BY JINJIN XU
for Shruthi Badri
To tempt fate, I step on a book,
glistening, a square oasis on the floor.
You rush over, bowing, kissing it,
apologizing for your ignorant guest.
How tender your offering, how removed
from the holy I am. An acorn asks
for forgiveness, it is not yet a tree,
does not become a tree until
it sheds its acornness. Tonight
I idle by the light, dragging
the day’s expanse into my bones
the desire to live in it a little longer.
Your face, furrowed, skinny,
often mistaken for a child, is telling me
of the vaidyar who cured
your limbs’ erosion, called you back
to a land we once left
for the new leg! arm! waving
from the balconies of Amherst.
At daybreak we will circle
the thousand-year temple
next to your house clutching
a freshly blessed coconut,
chanting the name of our friend
one year after his passing,
bare feet trailing an ancient
feeling, open palms of ellai thatthu
awaiting those almost asleep,
those who have yet to wake –
JINJIN XU is a writer and filmmaker from Shanghai. Her work has been recognized by the George Bogin Memorial Award from Poetry Society of America and a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She is currently an MFA candidate at NYU, where she is a Lillian Vernon Fellow, teaches hybrid workshops, and serves as reviews editor of Washington Square Review. Her debut, There Is Still Singing in the Afterlife, won the inaugural Own Voices Chapbook Prize.