My Grandmother Puts on My Grandfather’s Sweater
The old thing is so patched up,
it is troublesome and thick.
Deep in its namesake,
If only she let it be holy,
be done with it. Scythe the wool to marry
the wind. In Taiwan, it could be
the deepest heat. People would still
be up to the neck in such
sophistication. Beading bodies before peeling
in front of fans. The neighbors,
when they saw her leave
for the moving pictures
with my grandfather, would sweat
little drops of gossip in the shape
of abalone shell buttons. When he took her
to the World Fair, she made sure
to pack their best sweaters.
It was rattle magic—their first plane,
their taking off in the night. In the space
of man, they marveled over astronaut suits
in Osaka, strung up anchor heavy,
saw the first trained orcas, slick with tricks
Raked through sand
in the palest rock gardens. Somewhere,
a diver pulls himself onto a beach
with his sack of abalone shells. What else
shares the pleasure
of a sweater?
An envelope, perhaps, for a letter.
The deepest night, when it is the belly of a iris,
wrapped and wet. Bathwater
in the hotel where my grandmother emerged,
dazzling, as if from sea.
If I were as small
as a dog, a hand would be enough
to cloth me. To be swaddled
like this forever. Wood-clad
feet etching out the patterns.
It is a beautiful thing, ripe
with abalone shells. Washed and air-
dried, it stiffens into any shape.
If my grandmother could hold
my grandfather’s hand,
she wouldn’t. They didn’t.
In the home video, they emerge
from the lobby and she shoos a small dog
with a petaled parasole as they shuffle forward
like Gods—no, I will not make this
about class. Another minute passes and he
is already burned. There is no dream
of decay, no lead unfinished in this
pencil, drawing arms from sleeves
as he unravels in the coffin. She is
wrapped in it now, still ribbed
in his scent.
This night is a night
you can breathe in. It is thick
with stars and rain.
My grandmother helps my grandfather
into his favorite sweater.
In this family, we all die in the hottest fire.
Michelle Lin is the author of A House Made of Water (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). Her poems appear in Quaint Magazine, Aster(ix), Powder Keg Magazine, and more. She served as an editor for the journals Mosaic, Hot Metal Bridge, and B. E. Quarterly, and is currently a reader for Twelfth House Journal. She has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, LEAPS summer program, and Young Writer’s Institute. She works for API Legal Outreach in the Bay Area.