Death, as Measured in Hz


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Contest Finalist

Death, as Measured in Hz

Tran Quynh Nguyên & Tran Quynh Anh

Within the cacophony osmosed into the hospital’s flaky and yellow-stained walls, grandma pretended to close her eyes and teleported to another land. Pervasive smells of anti-septic, half-used soap bars, hand sanitizers, and flesh-biting air conditioners deluded people into thinking it was not summer. The night was as thick as mire. Glimmers from squeaky bulbs blanched the rusted bed frames, lying on which my grandmother curling like a baby in her last crib, bedsheets swaddling her caroused skin scattered with dark brown age spots, bundles of red and green wires tugging her silver lanugo. She breathed in puffy gurgles under ventilators and dreamed to hushed croons of monotone beeps. She died at so many frequencies: relentless screeches of cicadas, supersonic heat of midsummer, popping sizzles of effervescent tablets, whining white noise of her bedtime radio, suffocating ticking of the wall clock. We all prostrated around her bed, squishing her arms to the tempo of “Bà ơi” yowls. And the electrocardiogram in the corner. Listen closely – it was blaring out staccato notes in folk dance songs grandma once taught me on the piano. No matter how sparsely – they are a reminder that there were sounds at living frequency within these four brick walls, at least for this moment.

death waves us back to
shore it’s our daily habit
we rebirth at dawn.

*Bàơi means “Oh grandmother!” in Vietnamese.

Tran Quynh Nguyen is a young writer from Hanoi, Vietnam. She loves writing songs on the piano in her free time.

Tran Quynh Anh is a young artist from Hanoi, Vietnam. She loves painting flowers in her free time. She and Nguyen are sisters.