Jerrold Yam




The first time I sit on a breathing animal,

his reins in my palms

like something I am tasked to protect,

I can almost be running with equal purpose,

not bothered by the moving on

or the leaving behind. Placing my cheek

on his carpet of worn furs, it is like

resting on Grandma’s hands,

at the hospital where she prepares us

for the journey she must forge

alone. Already my palms hurt

from the labour of resisting

what no one understands

as grace. When the time comes

I shall know whom to believe.






Then, like the most natural thing, I feel

disappointed at the disappointment

of being their son. Two decades ago

my parents welcome me, as if with scrutiny

comes ownership, and over the years

I learn as much as they learn

about themselves, how parenthood

defies one’s capacity for love

and tolerance for neglect. Sometimes

in the benevolent grasp of night

I wake up, as sudden as a newborn’s cry,

to how I will never become

better than what my body has allowed me,

what hurt is rewarded to my parents

by this inevitability. Then

my eyes betray the depth

of its timid pools, my face

conducting its own baptism

to atone for what is never committed.

So here lay the fraying

limits of parental responsibility. When

I walk into their room like a sinner

approaching the confession booth,

what do the ones who have given me life

know about love? What self-righteous

punishment? For once

the television would be muted, all walls,

all light, and before them

the fruit of their tiresome love

broken from its stem.






Peeling it off

in half-slumber,

my fingers

aroused by the scent

of pliant tissue, such are

the ways the body

destroys itself: angiogenesis,

fibroblasts, granulation,

how Grandma nurses

her fear of sleep before

waking to her surprise.