i.m. Ken Jing

Grant him this: the lilting, blonding leaves
and a window with which to watch them.

Do not let St. Vitus visit. Let his gargles
be not on the floor but upright

and in front of a mirror. Let no child ask
why he flails like a fish on a chopping block.

Let no one question the existence of God
in his embryo becoming.

And when the storm of inflections comes,
let it come through the window

bringing the lilting, blonding leaves.

I wrote this poem for a friend who suffered from severe epilepsy. The poem began as a kind of loose ghazal[1], but it soon became a prayer.

It was a prayer almost a decade too late. A classmate I kept in touch with says Ken Jing passed away somewhere between our fifth and sixth year of primary school. I don’t remember much besides being told he would not be coming back to school. A week before, our class was at his birthday party. I was never part of the group that volunteered to wheel him around school, but we both had epilepsy, and that made us friends.

I never forgot the look on his mother’s face as she watched him smile, laugh, point at the screen where one classmate was beating another at Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Back then, I could not understand how her face could hold such joy and despair in equal measure. Knowing what I know now, this is the prayer I wish I had said with her.

[1] an Arabic form of romantic verse

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