Cynthia Kong
University of British Columbia
Class of 2016



The phone rang again today
we picked up and tried to yell
Grandma, just put the phone to your ear
it’s 3 AM, is everything okay
over the sound
of wildly dialing buttons

we shared a laugh as you told me
about the pot of soup you’d forgotten, this morning
in the cupboard, in your kitchen
we laughed at the absurdity
as my heart ached;
there is no kitchen
there is no cupboard
in your single room nursing home

we watched TV
your favourite cooking show
til, to my horror
you re-discovered the seatbelt
locked around your waist
Grandma it’s for your safety, for falls
don’t pull, the alarm will ring
And you yelled at me
for the first time ever –
What kind of awful granddaughter are you
letting them tie me up this way
your voice burning
with betrayal

you needed to brush your teeth
so I wheeled you to the sink
but your eyes raised to the mirror
and sobbed
an ugly, wrinkled mess
of tears and toothpaste streaking over Cushingoid cheeks
and you asked me, eyes haunted
How did things get this way?

Grandma, they say so proudly
you’ll live to be 100, maybe even more
the family pride
of Asian longevity
but they don’t see you.

Their hearts don’t break
because they don’t feel
your hand on their cheek
because they don’t see
your sad, gentle smile
because they don’t hear
in such brief lucid moments
as you tell me quietly
that Grandma’s mind and body are so tired
and that you wake each day
to watch the sun rise
patiently waiting
to die.