Still Life with Splenectomy

by Mingpei Li

B.’s cat died today 10 years old sudden:
a heart attack after surgery.  When G. told me I was reading

about splenectomy: how you got that smooth
red scar on your torso [that I have tilled as if it could be

a field] its hook hugging your belly button how a scalpel
spelunking into your airlifted depth made you more hollow

gave you infections & hardly fear [which is still
fear].  A pulpy filter organ swapped for the fist-sized

memory of the young the demolished: an aggregate gain,
a loser of trade.  I wanted to ask an internist whether a ruptured

spleen meaningfully shortens life expectancy [I will spend
more time asking than you with the losing hand

that rushed that spleen out of you]. I see myself
in one room and the adjacent room floorless

and empty waits for me to choose it or not it I see myself
standing on top of a wall one foot lifted pressed

against the other thigh floating before I stumble or not
stumble into something I might not so easily extricate myself

from: always I could point out the line of wet sand
where a river meets its bank and ceases to be river and live by it.

“Tell me, doctor, does being without a spleen make someone
more prone to illness, unlovable, so I could be spared?”

B. hadn’t hid herself from a brittle
loss whose incalculable arrival made it resistant

to tempering and who knows what little bombs we hide
in ourselves who knows what backroom deal

misfortune has made with time? And if you are the man whose
death totals me [only if I am lucky] on a for-all-time sunny

lonely day it won’t be because you left me when I wasn’t
ready rather when I didn’t think I needed to be.

Mingpei Li was born in China and lives in New York City. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Black Warrior ReviewMagmaPuerto del SolThird CoastUp the Staircase QuarterlyVinyl, and elsewhere.