Love Poem from South China

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 three kuai five,
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