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My Mother Demanded Gratitude

Bone-ache signaled growth,
height a sure thing.

Hiccups? The lungs' desire
to fulfill their contract with the body.

Stubbed toe, throbbing funny bone,
leg of pins and needlesó

even a toothache, a blessing:
"If it hurts, it's not dead."

Any pain better than none, better
than the nerves' apathy.

And so she bubbled with laughter
when the car window closed

on my fingers or a camera swinging
from her chest clocked my forehead

as she picked me up, her joy boiling
over my pained but breathing body.

Josephine Yu

Prayer Book of the Anxious
Elixir Press

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