“Phôi Pha (Wither)” is a poem about old age, about being the only one left to tend to the dead, about there being no one left to send you off when your journey begins again.
no one left to burn spirit money
and paper houses
incense dust grows into ant hills
The subject of the poem remembers her youth, when she once was the “village beauty …body pink and firm as pomelo flesh.”
[…] she recalls
girlhood dreams the way a fictional
woman remembers love faithful
to an altered truth
If all that she is are her memories, then how is her existence defined now that all the witnesses to her life are gone?
“Phôi Pha (Wither).” The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 47. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology. Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.