Back to Issue Nine.

How to Save a Stillborn


three, zhūn, difficulty at the beginning

Invoke a spirit I am sure of this.

Rubbing over a stomach with blood from the thumb
of our butcher’s newborn will create balance in tautness:
a sewing needle disguised in the pork mince
could become a leech black and wriggling, a comma.

On the path from the hospital
bamboo shoots surviving three frosts
seemed to be the only medicine I could think of;

the black earth bald and grainless, new to heat,
and waiting to break,
opening here
opening there
opening here once more.


I bend down to watch a clasp of yarrow flowers sprout,
white petals clumping together like overcooked spittles of rice,

thinking that it was too late to do anything now:
nothing that could be teased out into a ritual.

Instead, descending like a curse, the rainclouds
burst over this side of the valley, some artifact
from the purple sky swelling; stretched the square of our insect net
fits just enough over the bed.

On the night, that was the first night
of thunder, it seemed the whole mountain shook,
breaking, reforming.

And the rain was seeping through the cedars
like a glue that you may find if you,
expecting blood,
swatted a mosquito with the flesh of your palm.

So the daughter was both born and
not born.

Jay G. Ying is a poet, fiction writer, reviewer and translator based in Edinburgh. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The White Review, The London Magazine, The Poetry Review, 3:AM Magazine, Ambit, The Scores, and others. He was a winner of the 2019 New Poet’s Prize, and his debut pamphlet, Wedding Beasts, is forthcoming from Bitter Melon.

More by Jay G. Ying: 
Under Heaven, Winds,” Poetry, Issue Nine.