Joss Paper

By: Harry Ho
My recent poems express some of the longing and experiences I’ve had during the COVID-19 pandemic as communication between relatives became important and relied on phones and FaceTime when death seemed close and the distance was too far to drive.
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Flat out on a lawn chair with his bones and bloodstreams

clanking like crackling on floss. Grandpa would stew alone

with anesthesia and jasmine tea after years of wrestling life

and country as boars wondering if he was in the outer dark

or the opposite when his grandchildren gawk and his kids translate.

 

Grandpa would leave for us white meat as he devoured xôi gà

some nights, washing down beer or dripped coffee blackened

in sugar acting as clock arms at dusk or day before we fly away

uncertain when the pens close. He mentioned pain in his gums

like knives between gnashing teeth and wanted a final smoke

before settling down where the cement hardened into a tomb

like a broken embouchure counted in bites of persimmons and calyxes.

 

As a child, I thought grandpa’s body dissipated like joss paper

then ended up in a time lapse of hell like a swallowed capsule,

while over oceans our parents sung yellow songs and Elvis

to us. Unpacking tongues until their gums itch knowing the songs

break into pieces of dish plates, only to return on Vu Lan[1].

 

[1]   Mother’s Day or Vu Lan in Vietnam are influenced by the Lunar calendar. During this holiday, proper respect and worship is given to ancestors in the hope that ghosts of ancestors can rest easily.

Harry Ho

Harry Ho is a second generation Vietnamese-American writer from Texas. He is currently earning his Masters in English at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Featured image by: Harry Ho

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