Travis Chi Wing Lau

Unifying Theory

(listen to the poem, read by the author) 

The white of a coat announces our modern prophet,
those claiming to tend to our last rites by bedside,
so long as there are children savvy enough to demand
for a rideshare to the temple of Asclepius because they cannot
afford another white claptrap that arrives later than the cheap pizzas
they know are made with more care. In the raspings of my pain,
I confess, and I get from other side of the wall something delphic,
riddles inflated with too much hot air and the bloat of script,
unreadable as the facts memorized for the weeder class
where the acolytes drink enough to know what they shouldn’t,
where the paper tests are curved just enough for the percentages
to do what they do on a chart: pass for knowing,
pass for a body, pass for every body,
pass for what I translate as the truth of the flesh,
the truth of my flesh (or what they cannot
care for). I expect a unifying theory, but all I get is parts,
bracing for new pain.

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Intimate Labors

(listen to the poem, read by the author) 

The force required to pull me
out from the flows: layered like oil on
canvas, wet with unrelenting

as a corner bleeds into that hue of
aftermaths, the remainder of brushes
washed together in a single cup breaking

from overuse, circular reduction,
until the pane of the body is itself clean—
clean, clean of what it will never see.

You lift with your legs, but I am still
afraid of falling because there is always the
vertigo of an omen, of a world without your

uplifting, when gravity realizes its contract
against bones turning coat,
leading a rebellion that breaks itself.

Will you stay when the bones do not?
Hold me in abeyance, in line,
in a fortress?

Maybe, but then again,
faith healing always was
a form of magical thinking.

Read Travis Chi Wing Lau’s Gatherer’s Blog in this issue of Wordgathering.

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About the Author

Travis Chi Wing Lau is Assistant Professor of English at Kenyon College. His research and teaching focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, health humanities, and disability studies. Alongside his scholarship, Lau frequently writes for venues of public scholarship like Synapsis: A Journal of Health HumanitiesPublic Books, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. His poetry has appeared in Barren Magazine, Wordgathering, Glass, South Carolina Review, Foglifter, and The New Engagement, as well as in two chapbooks, The Bone Setter (Damaged Goods Press, 2019) and Paring (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming). Visit his website at: