how death, too, hums its wordless song in between their silences

Yet Another Letter to a Quiet City
Gian Lao

It’s not like I don’t want to be meaningful.
I know: No moment in the modern world
when a corpse doesn’t need to be named.
There is always a mother holding a child
by its soft, rash-filled neck, listening
to the heavy gasping that translates
seamless into every animal language.
Still, every moment I notice the long arms
of my heart stretching out to that bridge
in Vladivostok. To the odd foreign folk
pressing an imaginary camera saying
“Picture?” Just like that, happiness
crawls out of the bushes. Already, I see
the strange houses. The graffiti.
Teenagers wrestling in the grass
of a great, expanding city. From afar
I hear their dinner conversations.
There’s the bottle of stale table vodka.
There’s the pilmini only mother can make.
Then there’s that nameless ache: realizing
how death, too, hums its wordless song
in between their silences.
All of us understand the language
of breathing. It’s the reason I leave
my chair for the next cigarette. Each breath
a form of mourning. An intermittent signal.
A short distant moment of silence.

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