Esther Lin

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Esther Lin

My Parents

Supposedly it is
the mother one longs for.

The one who nurses,
holds, and sings.
She did all these things.

Once, he spoke of her in this way:

We fought for thirty years.
One of us was passionate

and the other
didn’t care for much.

I’m ashamed that she went first.

I am told her body was pale, flaccid,
and inert.

Together my father and I
did not see it.


My husband’s favorite is to suffer.
I too have taken this up;

I pant for what I can’t have.
The world is full of trite regard.

Those who love lightly as houseflies
do so because they expect calamity,

and those who love passionately
demand a righting of ancient wrongs.

My mother did both.
Her voice high and keen

from the bed she routinely took ill.
I brought her pills; she shared them

with me and I went off into my own life,
fearing and trusting everyone.

Esther Lin reads “My Parents”


Esther Lin reads “Habit”


Esther Lin was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for 21 years. She was a 2020 Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, 2017–19 Wallace Stegner Fellow, and author of The Ghost Wife (Poetry Society of America 2017). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Hyperallergic, the New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere. Currently she co-organizes for the Undocupoets, which promotes the work of undocumented poets and raises consciousness about the structural barriers they face in the literary community.