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About More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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Jocelyn Jiao


the articles went first.
then the pronouns, the verbs,
nouns. they melted away, leaving 
only memories of warmth
cradled by salivary glands.
adjectives flutter behind 
my front teeth, ready for flight.
only adverbs remain,
curled beneath my tongue--
yawning, drowsy:
the softest words of vocabulary.

the lilt of my voice has left too,
soapy Californian vowels
scrubbed clean. 
when i speak to my mother,
she complains of my consonants,
how they have begun 
to iron out cadences, climb 
over inflections, ride 
them into deep sand. she says
only my whisper remains whole.
but not for long;
already the throat whistles.

it all started at your
bedside, when your lips 
were parted, straining
to form one first, final word.
a sudden embrace of cold 
concrete made you into
some bright thing with eyes
translucent, gasping
for the comfort of
water, empty and clear--
when ebullience 
once spilled from your lips
as a sun warms an earth.

do you see? words are meant 
for creatures of air. i have no use for them;
even fish can sing.

gently, carefully, tenderly,
night arrives; it pivots and
provides no answer. i feel your name 
coil in my mouth, watch 
as it ebbs away 
with the receding waters.


About the poet: 

Jocelyn Jiao just graduated from <leo_highlight leohighlights_underline="true" leohighlights_url_bottom="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsBottom.jsp?keywords%3Dstanford%2520university%26domain%3Dwww.pulsemagazine.org" leohighlights_url_top="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsTop.jsp?keywords%3Dstanford%2520university%26domain%3Dwww.pulsemagazine.org" leohighlights_keywords="stanford%20university" id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" style="border-bottom-width: 2px; border-bottom-style: solid; border-bottom-color: rgb(255, 255, 150); background-color: transparent; background-image: none; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer; display: inline; background-position: 0% 50%; background-repeat: repeat repeat; ">Stanford University with a bachelor of arts degree in human biology.<leo_highlight id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" leohighlights_keywords="stanford%20university" leohighlights_url_top="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsTop.jsp?keywords%3Dstanford%2520university%26domain%3Dwww.pulsemagazine.org" leohighlights_url_bottom="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsBottom.jsp?keywords%3Dstanford%2520university%26domain%3Dwww.pulsemagazine.org" leohighlights_underline="true" style="border-bottom-width: 2px; border-bottom-style: solid; border-bottom-color: rgb(255, 255, 150); background-color: transparent; background-image: none; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: pointer; display: inline; background-position: 0% 50%; background-repeat: repeat repeat; ">

About the poem:

"Language is probably the most precious of gifts. Without it, we are utterly alone--smothered and helpless. While not all of us may have experienced the same kind of loss, we all have lost something. I think we can all relate to how, at the most terrible and profound of times, what comes immediately is not a shout or scream. Words escape us. Bodies take charge; they force us to mourn, properly, in silence." 

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro