POETRY
When My Wife Speaks Chinese On The Phone
Garth Pavell

Bamboo and rain drum the time I was a child and my mother was mapping the neighborhood dynasty with her sister Corrine. For years they plotted to overthrow the geriatric mindset of their mother who kneaded Judaism into me and my sister’s Play-Doh. 

I learned the weaponry of words on the playground through cruel polish jokes jabbing at my dead yet vaguely lecturing grandfather who came from the old country to die in an American factory. Cancer made in America gave ghost grandpa an aura of asbestos.   

It’s like on 911 when those brave souls trapped on Mount Doom decided it’s better to drown in air then be burned by evil prayers so they inched up to nothingness with the pen of Hemingway charismatically pointing to the good beyond any scripture or sword.  

My wife chats at the glass table by our window under a sickle cell moon and mourns her friend’s faded love. I don’t speak Chinese yet I understand the mood of her dialect as if it were a sentient being reacting like the lonesome rain feels when the sun repeatedly blooms beyond its reach.  

Phonetics slice the world’s buffet into finger sandwiches even though for thousands of years the lopsided sea drunkenly dreamed in different kingdoms and calendars. But as I lay listening to my wife transcribe her friend’s ancient sorrow I can only feel the history that is perversely our own.


Garth Pavell’s writing most recently appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Main Street Rag and Mudfish. He works for an international animal welfare nonprofit in New York City.