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Xiaoqiu Qiu

“Qual io fui vivo, tal son morto” –Inferno


My mother never tells me how she almost died giving birth to me. When I’m back in the US and

am handed the snake plant I asked someone to sit over the summer, I tilt my head at how it is

more dead and alive. As far away, her voice fading, and I hear the softer parts clearer. As the

desiccated leaves all hoist up skyward, tips lower only at the last curl. The green tautened by pale

veins, pulling horizontal, immovable. I realize when on display, we both perform our liveliness

as nature morte. Still life. I still see my lifelong high school friends. They smile more vividly

than ever in their Stories. Sooner or later they froze. All things are remembered today. They are

only seamless under the strokes of our fingers. In Musée D’Orsay I watched Monet flick his

coagulated strokes in a portrait of his dying wife. Each thin, sharp lines attack Camille’s cheeks

with more merciless passion. They stop right there. Her face living as far as her dying. Our living

cells kill themselves every second. When they leave our bodies, we carefully vacuum them and

bag them away and impersonate a clean visage that consciousness is an uninterrupted stream of

self. The day before my flight across the Pacific, Dad drove us by the old ward where Mom was

admitted. She crooned under my ear finally: “I wasn't thinking about how I am going to die

before I gave birth to you. I thought about how you will give birth to a mother after you are


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