(How We Might Perish)
Tripping over landmines,
decapitation by clothesline, resurgence
of swine flu, snapped
spine, war wounds, whacked
by goons, floods during
monsoon, homicidal maniac, bulimia
by ipecac, mainlining tainted
smack, cardiac attack, gored
by yak in heat,
cat poop parasites, stroke,
spider bite (brown recluse),
white phosphorus sweep, in
your sleep, ill-timed base-jump
leap, fanatical believer wielding
meat cleaver, advanced Dengue
Fever, hangman’s noose, acute
polysubstance abuse, E-coli tainted
juice, U.N. sanctions, SARS,
staph superinfection, malaria, electrocution,
malnutrition, falling litter, cirrhosis
of liver, cancer (assorted),
killer bees, plane crash,
septicemia, brain aneurysm, mutating
strain of flu, SUV
rollover, hypertension, crushed in
earthquake, stress, anxiety attack.
My grandfathers did not live long enough
to see their children grow up.
One never knew I was to exist and the other,
who really was my great-grandfather,
had me thrust upon him at the nursing home,
long enough for two photos to be taken.
His mental state so deteriorated
he could have been holding a sack of drooling yams
for all that it mattered.
And it did to those taking the photograph.
The other felled by a stroke at his butchershop,
came back grumpy, iron-fisted and older-fashioned.
He doted on us, his grandsons;
we were teens, half-formed blobs,
and he never saw who we would become, or how we would.
My father did not live long enough to see his
only grandchild grow up.
(He would not even know of the others
down the line, nor they of them.)
And at some pin-prick point in time,
this little sweetness of a child
will have no real memory of her grandfather
or later, of me.
She will wonder who her grandfather was,
not remembering how he beamed Cheshire-cat like
whenever she was around, how he carried and doted on her
like he never did with his own children,
how he lugged her kiddie table across two statelines
strapped to the roof of his car, how he drove
105 miles to get her favorite shoes specially re-soled.
She will wonder who this uncle of hers was,
not remembering that soap-bubble blowing toy monkey
from Camden Market that caused two full-scale baggage searches
at two airports, and how delighted she was
lying in front of Bubble Monkey while he did his thing.
Will she remember the swimming lessons? the games of shark-horsey?
or the bedtime stories he made up,
and how for weeks she kept searching for those stories
in all her books, insisting to her father
that the stories were there. Will she remember
the tireless hours he spent playing tea party with her?
Or will she outgrow those tea parties and ballet-dancing mice,
forsake them in favor of the mall and best friends,
lipsticks and nylons;
and I’ll be dimmed,
worn as a Post-It note, the writing in an unfamiliar hand,
on its last sticks, barely clinging
to a basket of already broken,
dis-used and outgrown toys.
From Gutted (Manic D Press, 2006) by Justin Chin. Copyright © 2006 by Justin Chin. Used with the permission of the publisher.