Convalescence

by Gavin Yuan Gao

All day, I’ve been trying to discern the nature 
of my relationship with silence

Whether it’s romance, rescue 
or abduction

Lovers, a plausible plot

Savior & saved, sure

But who’d want me as their hostage?

Certainly not death, who 
appeared before me years ago that night
as the bouncer at Gigi’s: cross-armed, big 
& glossy with sweat 
in his black leather, guarding the hell’s 
gate to the kind of thrill 
that I, at nineteen, was dying
to be part of

Death darted just one glance at my bird-boned body
& laughed as if his voice was made of leather

the way my beautiful ex laughed 
the evening he grew his wings back 
& flew off into the snowy dusk

Now the snow is touching 
all the trees in Michigan again
just like that evening

Across the suburbs of America, lights come on
like eyes opening for the first time

Think of his laughter—the silver of its wind chime

Then think of the glistening hole between my lungs, 
which I’ve learned—over the years—to trick myself 
into believing is hunger, opening the pantry when I know 
there’s nothing inside
but the exhaustion of meal moths

Outside, the sun is setting like an impossible wound

I fly into it with my eyes open
knowing there’s nothing this radiant
that won’t heal

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