Poetry by J.D. Ho

Body Math

 From the Greek: knowledge.
The study of x and y

The ache in my hands
is the quarter
from my grandmother.
The practicality, the fourth
from my grandfather. Sadness
in winter, the half
my mother gave me.
The mystery that remains,
my father’s genes. 

Six times, I almost died.
Three times by
my own hand. Twice
in cars. Once while hurtling
toward a tree on a sled,
my exact value never known,
pi calculated to infinity. 

Three seams stitched
by doctors, three times blades
took to me, singing. One cut
healed by itself, but the line persists
on a finger mistaken
by clippers for a vine. 

My heart can’t be weighed
until I die. It carries
the burden of collisions
charted on the axis of time.
The one who loves me truly—
asymptote, parallel. Never meeting—
we two lines.

Sleep Interrupted

When I was born,
my mother gave me her face
so I wouldn’t forget her.
She gave me a story
she told me not to repeat: 

The time came for me to pack my suitcase
and leave.
I got on the bus,
a sunny song
playing in my head. 

As the bus pulled away,
the people in the station seemed to lift their faces
and look at me.

The world passed outside the window.
First there was nothing but dust
and wire-crossed roads. 

A mother sat with her little girl
across the aisle. I smiled at her,
and she looked away.

Through half-closed lids, the landscape took on the color of grain,
golden and swaying,
seductive in a way I couldn’t name. 

Then there wasn’t land anymore,
just black spaces interspersed with light
and faces
reflected in the glass. 

I woke in the middle of the night
and I couldn’t remember where I was. It was as if I had no past,
no future. Only darkness on the other side
of the window. Only one awake
besides me. 

In the middle of the night,
the little girl played peek-a-boo
with a stranger. Each look,
a day taken from her life. Each look
altered her irrevocably. 

She gave me her face, and then
she was old.

J.D. Ho has an MFA from the Michener Center at the University of Texas in Austin. J.D.’s poems and essays have appeared in Georgia Review, Ninth Letter, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals.

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