Bell’s Palsy

by Winnie Xu

Illustration: Relief in Noir by Alisha Agarwal

“Look here sweetie, smile!” It’s picture day.
The cameraman gestures for me
To see myself
I bowed my head out of habit,
Anticipating shame, disappointment,
I look at the photo anyways.
Still the same half of my face alive with
Wrinkles and a crooked smile.

The other half
Drooping, still.

Momma said to be patient,
We could fix this,
Nerve Paralysis.
She took me to the doctor.
He prescribed high-dose steroids, antiviral medications, and said that ultimately I’ll need

Momma said I was too young,
“Let’s try alternative medicine–
Traditional Chinese Medicine.”
She took me to the TCM practitioner.
She took my pulse and checked my tongue
And said that treatment would be a long process
Because I needed to establish harmony between
Yin and Yang
Within my body.

Twenty-five sessions of
She listed acupuncture points: ST3, ST4, ST5, ST7, TE17, TE23, SP6, SP10, BL67, PC8
Needles inserted through my skin,
Above my cheekbones, near my mouth, below my ears, on my temples
Even in places I thought
On my ankles, above my knees, on my pinky toe
In my palm, on my arm, on my foot.
“Collected pools of Qi
That must be dispersed”
None of this was familiar to me.

No apparent changes
After each session
Just a feeling of
Strangely complacent
About my face.

Two months later, it was my birthday.
Momma took a photo of me.
I smiled.
Walking over, with my head bowed
To see myself
Still the same half of my face alive with
Wrinkles and a crooked smile.

The other half

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