Poetry: “Carrying Grandfather” by Jessie Li

Carrying Grandfather

I didn’t know you, except once,
when I visited, and you peeled those

Chinese pears for me – slinking the
dulled, rusted knife across the skin.

You smiled, I smiled. I counted
your freckles, their withered yellow,

like faded marigolds. I remember wanting
to touch your aged, leathery skin.

Later, I didn’t know you, but felt
the weight of your bundled body,

coffin like a wooden glove, my own hands
gripping the trailing white ribbon.

Someone stumbled, jolting the boards.
A rumble. Then, silence –

the elders whispered of vagrant souls, those
who escaped their coffins, unable to find home.

Spirit unburdened, body intact. I turned away
from the cemetery, ribbon fluttering lone in my hand.

Then, I felt you, light as first snow
melting into my skin, and I carried you home.

Jessie Li is a student at Davidson College, where she majors in English. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, Rookie, Imagine magazine, NPR/WPSU’s This I Believe, and elsewhere. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Davidson and a Student Fellow for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.