take this soup I froze four batches in Tupperware

an illustration of a mother's hand near a suitcase filled with Tupperware, umbrella, sweater, liver, socks. The luggage tag has a heart on it.
Art by Kristina Closs

Matthew You’re Leaving Again So Soon

by Matthew Siegel

please take these pens I have all these pens
for you all with caps on them and pen holders
I have all these pen holders large and plastic

I know they won’t fit in your bag I’ll mail them
take this umbrella this sweater these socks
they’re ankle length like you like them

and soup take this soup I froze four batches
in Tupperware four batches of broth and chicken
and carrots and celery frozen in the freezer

they will keep you healthy my son
my liver take my liver to help clean your blood
I’ll fly to you I’ll come to you tomorrow

you used to cling to my ankle and I would
drag you across the floor please
pack me in your suitcase take me with you

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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.

And for the first time I tell you everything

I had the pleasure of seeing the delightful and incredibly talented Tracy K. Smith (1972-) read and discuss her work a few months ago–this piece is from her second book, Duende. Check out her poem I posted in 2012 from her Pulitzer Prize winning book, Life on Mars.

“Interrogative”

1. Falmouth, Massachusetts, 1972

Oak table, knotted legs, the chirp
And scrape of tines to mouth.
Four children, four engines
Of want. That music.

What did your hand mean to smooth
Across the casket of your belly?
What echoed there, if not me—tiny body
Afloat, akimbo, awake or at rest?

Every night you fed the others
Bread leavened with the grains
Of your own want. How
Could you stand me near you,

In you, jump and kick tricking
The heart, when what you prayed for
Was my father’s shadow, your name
In his dangerous script, an envelope

Smelling of gun-powder, bay rum,
Someone to wrestle, sing to, question,
Climb?

2. Interstate 101 South, California, 1981

Remember the radio, the Coca-Cola sign
Phosphorescent to the left, bridge
After bridge, as though our lives were
Engineered simply to go? And so we went

Into those few quiet hours
Alone together in the dark, my arm
On the rest beside yours, our lights
Pricking at fog, tugging us patiently

Forward like a needle through gauze.
Night held us like a house.
Sometimes an old song
Would fill the car like a ghost.

3. Leroy, Alabama, 2005

There’s still a pond behind your mother’s old house,
Still a stable with horses, a tractor rusted and stuck
Like a trophy in mud. And the red house you might
Have thrown stones at still stands on stilts up the dirt road.

A girl from the next town over rides in to lend us
Her colt, cries when one of us kicks it with spurs.
Her father wants to buy her a trailer, let her try her luck
In the shows. They stay for dinner under the tent

Your brother put up for the Fourth. Firebugs flare
And vanish. I am trying to let go of something.
My heart cluttered with names that mean nothing.
Our racket races out to the darkest part of the night.

The woods catch it and send it back.

4. But let’s say you’re alive again—

Your hands are long and tell your age.
You hold them there, twirling a bent straw,
And my reflection watches, hollow-faced,
Not trying to hide. The waiters make it seem

Like Cairo. Back and forth shouting
That sharp language. And for the first time
I tell you everything. No shame
In my secrets, shoddy as laundry.

I have praised your God
For the blessing of the body, snuck
From pleasure to pleasure, lying for it,
Holding it like a coin or a key in my fist.

I know now you’ve known all along.

I won’t change. I want to give
Everything away. To wander forever.
Here is a pot of tea. Let’s share it
Slowly, like sisters.