Questions and Answers

by Jane Lin

The public relations officer from the charity chanted
in a language I didn't understand. There were gestures
and clapping. I stood at the head of the hospital bed,
brushed a hand over my mother's hair because a woman
had done this to me in my grief a month before at an A&W
on a hillside in Vermont
                                        and I had found it comforting.

My mother twitched her head in irritation, too weak
to move her arms, to speak. I knew then I was nobody.
Only the friend in her blue uniform could rouse a response
near the end, some rallied squeeze of the hand.

We waited once, at home, the others preparing the car, the bags,
for the ER. She asked me if I had any questions. I said no.

Still no, the possible answers irrelevant.
                                                                    Did you love him?
Bitter melon—
                the waxed nubbly skin, orange-tinged flesh,
                                                rough seeds in their slipcases
—shocked when she considered he might miss her
                                                                                    slipped free
of our binds.

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