Li Li

I take a breath and think of my father. "He lies on his sickbed
attached to oxygen, all skin and bones, he needs help to use the
This is how a relative described it a few days ago on the phone
I can't know what my father is thinking
but I trust that he's watching himself swim. He once crossed the Yangtze
I lightly paddle with both arms. My father
will never enjoy this simple motion again: head
launching into water, coming up, launching in again, coming up again
I dive toward the bottom, touching the shadows that dance into cuttlefish
The scene of a summer bath grabs me: my father's right arm
like a crane on a dock by the Huangpu River
lightly hoisting the eight-year-old me. He was younger then than I am now
Suddenly I'm stung by something, I struggle
upward. Like someone drowning. The waves all around me
become his muscles, then in a flash become bubbles again
I'm gasping, not knowing now if it's me or my father swimming hard

translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman