ETHER by EMILY YIN

for my grandfather

Rooftop shingles
concatenate across the valley like fractal canopy,
like RGB pixels blooming
over the dusky night. In one rendering
of my memory, Taipei is a city stalled
on the threshold of morning,
recursive function paused
on the nth iteration of the scripting
of this city that I love, suspended
until the day of my return. In another,
Grandpa joins me on the balcony
at five a.m., points out each silhouetted sight
as the city blinks into being.

On Grandpa’s eightieth birthday,
I Skype him from my dorm. It’s so easy
to cast Grandpa as immutable constant
in the relentless loop of time,
Grandpa, preserved by static screen,
Grandpa, whose face looks ageless
in a certain light—it’s so easy
to pose for the camera, look a screen
in the eye, make out a smile
in the mass of pixels, flickering and bright—
so easy to blame my clumsy tongue
on bad audio, faulty connection.

Grandpa once told me that
distance resolves chaos into a kind of harmony
and I think of the cluttered streets
of my childhood, gorgeous
only from afar, and all the words
I forsook in the ether between then
and now, and the cracked-shell facade
of my Mandarin, obscured
by the crackle of the phone, think of
all the distance between us
and the way I can only bear to love him
when we’re an ocean apart.

 


Emily Yin is a freshman studying applied math at Princeton University. Her writing has been recognized by the UK Poetry Society and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. Read her work in Indiana Review Online, Track Four Journal, and Rust + Moth, among others.
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