Jade Cho

We can’t hear each other so we slip outside,

the morning heat mounting to 100. It’s odd

getting to know a friend on the eve of saying goodbye.

We both say I’m sorry for our losses—six months,

nine years ago—and it feels like a salve.

These days my grief is a thick cloud

hanging on the horizon. I turn and turn

down the winding road, but on every hilltop

there it is, waiting. I spend my days

packing books and sweaters into boxes,

wondering how much I can fit into my car

and how much I can afford to mail. At night

my sleep mind replays my father’s dying

but makes it worse: this time he can barely swallow

from the phlegm, and I watch him choke

on a piece of food. I know this means

I’m supposed to reckon with my grief

but I fold away the nightmare too,

bury it in the bottom of a banker’s box.

My father would know:

how to tetris each bag and suitcase,

correcting my haphazard piles

to fit the hatchback’s petite shell.

How to shove even this sorrow

down into a silence unmoving as stone,

a mass metastasized in the liver.

He kept everything: a trigonometry textbook

from high school, the college pipe and the matches,

sixty-six synthetic Nike shirts in every color.

I folded each shirt, sweatpant, pair of socks;

counted and photographed them all

before laying them in the white trash bags,

a procession of small bodies leaving home.

What do I keep and what do I let go of?

How much will it cost in the end?

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