Michelle Lin

My Grandmother Puts on My Grandfather’s Sweater

        The old thing is so patched up,
it is troublesome and thick.
                        Deep in its namesake,
                                                she sweats.

                        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,
                                        she remembers

                        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

                                        and hunger.
        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.