Love Poem from South China, 1999

The tropical infection traced
a map up my finger and standing
outside the Kunming Red
Cross Hospital, we watched this white

rabbit eat Christmas poinsettia
before we found the Doctor named Wen.
Registration for the operation cost 3 kuai 5
equivalent to twenty-seven cents. Dr.

Wen pointed two fresh, ready fingers
at his table and repeated (in English)
operation. After the lecture on pus
and abscess, you expressed nonchalance

at the sight of his knife, (he unwrapped
it, you said, optimistic) and I
whispered translations into the shirt
where I buried my face at your waist.

When Dr. Wen sliced the finger like tropical
fruit the leather taste spread
to the back of my mouth. Operation,
your belt, Chinese vocab abscess

operation, white rabbit, red plant. The day
went on outside, and when I
noticed it again hours later, I had stopped
screaming, The bandages were just

gauzy hotel curtains, angels
in fluttering light. When I rolled
from the shadows of hospital shock,
you introduced me to
my finger. Gored and masked
criminal bandit! Escaped from the red
cross, you said: Finger X. Read
a passage from Our Man

In Havana. Yes, China, Havana
nary a trauma; we double wrapped the
digit’s disguise with a plastic shower
cap and swam off the coast

of Hainan. But just to be safe, you carried
me through the water
with my hand raised like a torch
above the waves.

First published in the Seneca Review. Copyright © 2009 by Rachel DeWoskin. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.