Shin Yu Pai
  • Shin Yu Pai
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I was not born

with the mothering

bone, so it’s not

the young woman

my own age

on the 48 bus

hoisting her off-

spring aloft

who trains my attention,

or catches my heart

but the face of the ruined

man in a wheelchair

strapped down to the coach,

eyes gone wide watching

his jaw grown slack until

drool leaks out the corners

of the mouth he cannot wipe himself

calling out in a language which none

of us will respond to but

which we all apprehend

Shin Yu Pai, who grew up in Southern California, is a poet, photographer, oral historian, and editor. The author of seven collections of poetry, she has served as a poet-in-residence for the Seattle Art Museum and produced literary programming for the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Women’s Museum of Dallas, and the Rubin Museum of Art. A former assistant curator for the Wittliff Collections, she is currently associate director of the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation for Language and Literature at Hendrix College. “we are all our own mothers” is from her recent collection
, Adamantine, published by White Pine Press, and is reprinted by permission. Her website is The author’s photo is by Daniel Carrillo.

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