On An Organ Donation Run

Saturday, October 10, 2020

This poem earned Joey Lew first place in this year's international William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition.


I am asked to close up

(the body)

It is my very first operation


I never used to write from gut churning

I used to look life in its beady eyes

and juice all the gorgeous out of it

like strangling a monstrous fruit

with bare meaty hands made from


wrist-wringing and knuckle-cracking

in the back of a windowless classroom

asbestos lining the tight walls

I learned Spanish and then forgot it, learned

Spanish and then forgot

English and every word and now

I am looking at lungs inside a person

being removed from a person

and every word is forgotten


her family is praying for her soul outside

       make it pretty for the family

and every stitch is mislaid

and corrected slip

the tail under the slick thread

and how do you make a pretty thing

with meaty hands inexperienced

in the body

       and its openings

and its closings

      and this place is so dark

so clean and my mind is so keen and so eager

if only I can do this right—


I never used to write about bodies and now

I close my eyes and open

an abdomen I could tell you every secret

the liver has but they would all be

lies I never learned how to close

myself up after injury


always seeping a little luxurious grief

and this person she figured

perhaps a professional might give her the

dignity of a job well done

but her knotted skin

is sallow and my knitting is a stitch

my grandmother never taught me

she was a psychiatrist

and when she died

she didn’t recognize her doctor

I don’t recognize

myself in scrubs so blue

and optimistic

so small and drowned in fabric

lady whose lungs we took away

I hope you’ll forgive me you

taught my clumsy hands

a new prayer