My first thought when my brother called
was: This is going to happen and I
am going to die. When he called
from the hospital in Kyoto to tell me
his son George was worsening,
that his liver would fail,
that he needed a transplant
and I was the only viable donor—
my first thought was: This
is going to happen and I
am going to die.

And then I was on my way—
fearless and terrified,
watching a movie about
Dominican minor-leaguers
somewhere over the Pacific,
and life felt real, its strangeness
no longer half-hidden.

Six months before, I’d read a novel
about surgeons, its climactic scene
a harrowing, high-wire live
liver transplant between
twin brothers that saves
the recipient but kills the donor.
Why did I read that book,
why then? Past and future
inseparable, yes, I know.
But of all the books I might
have read, why that book, why then?
First Meeting with the Surgeons

It was as if the helpless gods had convened
around a cluttered table to tinker
with fate one more time. I remember
how small the room seemed,
how unequal to tragedy or heroism,
the scuffed linoleum along the baseboards,
bookshelves overstuffed,
the unsteady chairs.
I remember Dr. Ogura,
the man who would cut me open
and delicately detach half my liver,
had a band-aid just above
his left eyebrow, and I wondered
had someone hit him, the parent
of a child who’d died in a failed
surgical procedure, a liver transplant
perhaps, or had he fallen
off his bicycle, or walked into
a doorjamb, or been gashed
by a low-hanging branch
while out for a Sunday stroll
in the hills above Kyoto?
You never see adults, or gods,
with band-aids on their faces,
but there he was, the injured surgeon.
And as he studied my blood tests
and explained the operation to me,
I couldn’t stop thinking about it,
that cut above his eye, what
it looked like, how it happened,
what it might portend.

* * *