A jade box full of childhood fears

an illustration of a grackle on a yellow branched tree with a few things hanging of the branches-bread, a book, a heart
Art by Kristina Closs

Things the Grackles Bring

by Chen Chen

An eggy disaster. An opulently abandoned theatre. A jade box full of childhood
fears. A library book overdue & despised. A highway
beautification with a rerun of the full moon. An informercial
they would really like us to watch, in formalwear. Their aunties

who each bring just a thimble of thunder. Their grandmothers
who bring us geodes to crack: a jack, a jenny: Twins!
Reasonably priced dental plans! Fondue & dipping breads
but we’re already full. Other birds but we don’t care about them. Words

we’ve spoken to our parents that we would take back. That we wouldn’t.
The blue pen that exploded. What bees wear at night
when they want to feel sexy. The math of Halley’s Comet. A miracle
but we just couldn’t accept, no no, that’s far too much, you’re too kind, no.

Jasmine tea. Property tax. War but they see our hands
are already full of it. So. The notion that if we mourned every single person
killed just today. Learned the name & wept the name.
If we had the body. To grieve every body.

They bring it to our doorstep.

from Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced An Emergency


Holiest are those who eat alone.

I love this poem by the incredible writer, Cathy Park Hong (1976-), whose 2020 essay collection Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning is probably the book I reccomended most last year and urge you to all to read.

a watercolor painting of a hummingbird
Watercolor by Kristina Closs

“A Wreath of Hummingbirds”

I suffer a different kind of loneliness.
From the antique ringtones of singing
wrens, crying babies, and ballad medleys,
my ears have turned
to brass.

They resurrect a thousand extinct birds,
Emus, dodos, and shelducks, though some,
like the cerulean glaucous macaw,
could not survive the snow. How heavily
they roost on trees in raw twilight.

I will not admire those birds,
not when my dull head throbs, I am plagued
by sorrow, a green hummingbird eats
   me alive
with its stinging needle beak.

Then I meet you. Our courtship is fierce
in a prudish city that scorns our love,
as if the ancient laws of miscegenation
are still in place. I am afraid
I will infect you

after a virus clogs the gift economy:
booming etrade of flintlock guns sag.
Status updates flip from we are all
connected to we are exiles.
What bullshit

when in that same prudish city,
they have one exact word to describe
   the shades
of their sorrow, when they always
   sit together
and eat noodles during white days
of rain, in one long table,
though not all.

As a boy, my father used to trap
little brown sparrows, bury them in
   hot coal,
and slowly eat the charred birds alone
in the green fields, no sounds,
no brothers in sight.

Holiest are those who eat alone.
Do not hurt them, do not push them,
   insult them,
do not even stare at them, leave
them to eat alone, in peace.