by Lee Ann Roripaugh

My mother carried the chest x-ray
in her lap on the plane, inside
a manila envelope that read
Do Not Bend and, garnished
with leis at the Honolulu Airport,
waited in line—this strange image
of ribcage, chain-link vertebrae,
pearled milk of lung, and the murky
enigmatic chambers of her heart
in hand. Until it was her turn
and the immigration officer held
the black-and-white film up
to sun, light pierced clean through
her, and she was ushered from one
life through the gate of another,
wreathed in the dubious and illusory
perfume of plucked orchids.
“X-Ray” is an excerpt from Lee Ann Roripaugh‘s poem “Transplanting.” Read the poem in its entirety at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Wyoming native and second-generation Japanese American, Lee Ann Roripaugh earned an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of Beyond Heart Mountain (1999), selected by Ishmael Reed for the National Poetry Series; Year of the Snake (2004); and On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (2009). Roripaugh’s awards include a Bush Artist Foundation Individual Fellowship and the 1995 Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize.

Image: “Orchid X-Ray” by Albert Koestler, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at