Ashley Wong’s poem “Post-Miracle” begins with empathy for the hard-hearted: “I understand now how the disciples could touch thousands / of pieces of bread with their hands and still not get it…” Without sentimentality, Wong describes the transience of a miracle and places us within this specific moment, the space after a miracle. The speaker tells us, “I know / what it’s like to be hardened in the face of a miracle” and goes on to describe the preoccupations of daily life, even after a friend starts breathing again, even while “someone is rocking the line between life / and death.” Wong’s tone is powerful, straightforward, and immediate. Each time I read “Post-Miracle,” I brace against the familiar, human panic of the self eclipsing the other. In the midst of its directness and accessibility, “Post-Miracle” offers and encourages subtle reflection. The self-aware lineation underscores the potential within the speaker’s self-criticism. Many of the line breaks imitate finality, creating assumptions that break under the continuation of the sentence through the line. Fragments at the end of lines like “she lost oxygen,” “I know,” and “someone is rocking the line between life” transform into something new as the poem progresses. These small-scale transformations bridge lines and coexist with the human tendency to resist transformation within the poem. Amidst this resistance, as we follow the line, it alters our perception, if only for a moment.
—Erin Griffin Collum
“Post-Miracle,” by Ashley Wong
For they considered not the miracle of the loaves:
for their heart was hardened.
I understand now how the disciples could touch thousands
of pieces of bread with their hands and still not get it,
how so many salt fish could shimmer only in the periphery
of their consciousness. Life schleps on. Katie had surgery
last Wednesday. They harvested the sick lung
from her body and left a ditch next to her heart.
The world inside flickered into night. She lost oxygen
for twenty-four minutes. We thought she had died
when she opened her eyes and began to nod. I know
what it’s like to be hardened in the face of a miracle, for some
insane part of me to care only about checkboxes on a list,
dust forming clouds underneath the couch, my sleep,
my needs, when someone is rocking the line between life
and death, pressing to see one square of light
each morning. Is this what it means to be human?
The light rinsing me when I step outside and say,
I don’t care. Whose night is it anyway? The disciples
gathered the leftover pieces of bread and fish
and stumbled away from that hillside astoundingly
the same as when they had arrived.
Ashley Wong grew up in New Hampshire. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander, and Fugue. She received an MFA from Boston University where she was a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow to Timor-Leste.