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Memory Poems

Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10 Video Workshops.

Episodde 3: Li-Yong Lee & Memory

I Ask My Father
for advice.
He taps his foot
on the kitchen floor
and quotes a verse
from the Bible at the same
time he takes a long look
out the window and I know
he sees my grandfather when he was a boy.

—Dave Johnson

I ask myself to move
I start and conscience joins me.
My soul and I whisper like herds of deer.
If my heart were alive, it would hear
its thoughts and float with a lantern.

I’ve never been in my dream, or in my heart’s core,
nor stood on the great edge of idealism to kneel to
the snow drops on my platter, where the birds
chirp away in the freezing air surrounding me.

But I love to imagine it happen;
how the snowflakes fill the atmosphere until
the grasses turn white, and
the scenery paints a pale light shine.

Both concepts have begun to tear.
But neither stops my mind’s gamble.
A gamble to move on.
And paint pictures of dazzling glimmers.

-Nanzib C.

Note: Hey! I just wanted to share some thoughts on 10*10*10. Dave Johnson’s voice is really soothing and especially started in the morning with a poem gives off a very pleasant feeling and energizes me. Writing a poem is quite refreshing for the soul and I wanted to thank you for the program! I wanted to let Dave Johnson know how far wide his reach is.

For the past week, all the many different classes my teacher (who has more than 180 students total) teaches in, all students of each class has been assigned (as classwork) to follow the 10*10*10 video to write a poem as an alternate remote learning way due to the unfortunate event of schools shutting down due to COVID-19. We are all in 10th graders currently in Brooklyn Technical High school, and we are excited to be doing poetry!

I asked my father to come with me to the stadium …
And he finally accepted, he made an exception to his principles,
Like someone who knows that you only live once.
I would soon understand why it was so difficult to convince him.

The day had arrived, San Siro was full, ready to see an Inter Atalanta,
and although Duván was not going to play, it was football worth watching.
Tickets in hand, entry 15 with preferential row for over 60,
the stairs and our seats in the second blue ring waiting for us,
a little bit of cardio and patience to get to our top,
and there we were, in the middle of curva nord, ready to see the show.

Actually, seeing is not the right verb,
my father doesn’t see games, he lives games,
taking a side from the start,
True to his choice, he saved no energy in supporting his side,
pity it was the visiting team and we were in the middle of the Interisti.

The prudence recommendations were not enough,
his genuine desire for justice
and his uncontainable emotions captured him.
While the Interisti were suffering, he was enjoying.
Fortunately, he could not celebrate, and a fair draw sealed the match.

We went down the ramps in ecstasy,
the released endorphins had given him life.
I finally understood his reservation for going to the stadium.
He doesn’t know about prudence,
His prudence is to live soccer from home.

Le pedí a mi papá que me acompañara al estadio…
Y finalmente aceptó, hizo una excepción a sus principios,
Como quien sabe que solo se vive una vez.
Pronto entendería por qué fue tan difícil convencerlo.

Llegó el día, San Siro lleno para ver un Inter Atalanta,
y a pesar de que Duván no jugara, era fútbol digno de ver.
Boletas en mano, entrada 15 con fila preferencial para over 60,
las escaleras y nuestros puestos en el segundo anillo azul nos esperaban,
un poco de cardio y paciencia para llegar a nuestra cima,
y ahí estábamos, en medio de la curva nord, listos para ver el espectáculo.

En realidad, ver no es el verbo correcto,
mi padre no ve partidos, vive partidos,
tomando partido desde el inicio,
fiel a su elección no escatimó energía en apoyar a su bando,
lástima que fuera el equipo visitante
y estuviéramos en medio de la multitud Interista.

Las recomendaciones de prudencia no bastaron,
su genuino deseo de justicia
y sus incontenibles emociones se apoderaban de él.
Mientras el Interista sufría, él gozaba.
Por fortuna no pudo celebrar y un justo empate selló el partido.

Bajamos las rampas en éxtasis,
las endorfinas liberadas le habían regalado vida.
Entendí por fin su reserva por ir al estadio.
Él no sabe de prudencia,
Su prudencia es vivir el fútbol desde casa.

Ho chiesto a mio padre di venire con me allo stadio …
Alla fine ha accettato, ha fatto un’eccezione ai suoi principi,
Come qualcuno che sa che si vive solo una volta.
Presto avrò capito perché è stato così difficile convincerlo.

Il giorno era arrivato, San Siro era pieno, pronto a vedere un Inter Atalanta,
sebbene Duván non gioccherebbe, era calcio che meritava essere guardato.
Biglietti in mano, ingresso 15 con fila preferenziale per over 60,
le scale ed i nostri posti nel secondo anello blu ci aspettavano,
dopo un po’ di fatica e pazienza ce l’ha abbiamo fatta,
ed eccoci lì, nel mezzo della curva nord, pronti a vedere lo spettacolo.

In realtà, vedere non è il verbo giusto,
mio padre non vede le partite, vive le partite,
scegliendo da che parte stare fin dall’inizio,
fedele alla sua scelta, non ha risparmiato energie nel sostenere la sua squadra,
peccato che fosse la squadra ospite ed che fossimo in mezzo gli Interisti.

Le raccomandazioni di prudenza non sono stati sufficienti,
il suo genuino desiderio di giustizia
e le sue emozioni incontenibili lo catturavano.
Mentre gli Interisti soffrivano, lui si divertiva.
Fortunatamente, non ha potuto festeggiare ed un pareggio ha sigliato la partita.

Siamo scesi per le rampe in estasi,
le endorfine rilasciate gli avevano dato vita.
Alla fine ho capito la sua riservattezza per andare allo stadio.
Lui non sa di prudenza,
La sua prudenza è vivere il calcio da casa.

Hello Poet House!
I found on youtube this series of videos, and how glad I am to have discovered this content!
Just to give you some context about the poems I am attaching, I am from Colombia, and I’m currently living in Milan Italy. Specifically about the 3rd poem, my father visits me every 6 months, he loves coming to Europe.
Thank you for the inspiration. Please keep on creating this kind of material!
Yours truly
-Luis Estrada

after Li-Young Lee’s poem, “I Ask My Mother to Sing”

I ask my dad to play the cd
music scurries in circles around us
measured beats teach our hearts how to dance
torso sways feet tap
he hums
sings along to words only his soul remembers
boombox is a bucket I lower into the deep well of his memory

-Camden Zyler

I Ask My Brother To Share
He responds quickly
With weightless words
To ease the pressure
To end the interrogation
Ignorant that they only quench
The fire of our passions.
Onward we dance
With four left feet
Tip-toeing existential lines
Of meaning.

Thanks Dave these are great!!!

-John Clifton
MD Candidate, Class of 2023
University of Maryland School of Medicine

First of all, thank you so much to Dave Johnson and Poets House.
These videos are opening up a whole new world to me. Although I put on
a poetry festival, I never thought I could express myself through that
medium. But being shut in, and through Dave’s teaching, I can, and I am…

I was able to catch live only today’s fourth episode (sports), for
which I submitted a short poem. But I’m working backwards through your
archives, and here’s my inspiration for Episode 3 —

I ask my mother to cry
And she begins, for herself,
Her home and her life,
For all she lost and all
She is living through.
I ask my mother to cry,
And she pats my face
The way she used to soothe my back
When I needed solace
And she says,
“There, there, dear,
It’s all right.”

– Nayana Hein

Hi Poets House,
Here is a response to Li-Young Lee’s wonderful poem…
I sent this yesterday, but it went into a black hole…is it too late to post it?

I ask John to rub
liniment on my back—
What do you see there?
(I’ve never seen my own back) You have a rash.
He methodically dabs tiny cold dots of gel in a micro-pattern just like a French pointillist painter— using red, blue, and yellow
Seurat dotted his spectrum of light, defined space in harmony as John applies his most singular touch
to blend all of my dots together.

many thanks
-Claudia Hollander-Lucas

Dear Mr. Johnson, the following is the poem I wrote modeled after Li Young Lee’s “I Ask My Mother to Sing.” Thank you for these wonderful poetry moments; they are pure relief and a joy.

I Ask My Father to Speak
He begins, for once unguarded.
Story unspooling from before we were conjured;
father, daughter, enemies, allies,
lighting flies in a bottle.

I’ve never worn a uniform, or lived on a military base,
nor stood on the back of a military truck to pound
dirt into heat into town, the white men scattering
like marbles.

But I love to hear it told; the news like a rumor of war.
Two Black MPs arrested, then rescued.
Soldiers with guns surrounding men with guns
till the faces break and roll away.

My father was there with the others, one minute older
than a boy. His rifle with no ammunition.

-Ruth Ford

I Ask My Son to Jog with Me
He slips on his shoes
And asks me to tie them
Down the stairs we go

His legs go sideways
Like a little kneeless dog
Still he bounds ahead of me

He monologues Pokemon Go triumphs
As I huff up to the
Highest point in Manhattan

I listen for birds
And try to forget
About going back inside

-Kasumi Parker

I Ask My Father To Play
I ask my father to play. He picks up
the varnished double tube of russet wood.
Keys click. He blows through a reed,
whining blast and shellacked red knob at the end
and fastens it on the crook. Surprising notes
of amber and musk, warm and enveloping.
Funny scales, smokey tones. He plays me
Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev,
the grandfather and the sorcerer’s apprentice
made ridiculous with too many brooms.
And the world of magic comes to my eyes,
though he scoffs at magic.
And the world of prayer comes to my soul,
though he – who trudged through Dauchau’s end
– despises god.
And the truth of love enters my heart,
though I never know where his is,
because he picks up his bassoon
and wanders elsewhere.

-Lenore Rosenberg

I Ask My Mind to Return
It floats back
from the stuck place
of yesterdays and tomorrows.

My eyes return to focus
on the place where I am walking,
on the moment around me now.

Now I see the birds above
lifting me into presence
on airy, lilting wing.

I return to myself,
carried on conscious breath,
drifting off and returning again.


Hi, sending a poem I wrote on the “I ask” theme from the 10-10-10 workshop.
What came to mind was my mother’s voice, what she asked for in her last days: kindness.

I Ask You To Be Kind
I ask you to be kind
Trim my toenails
Press a cold compress to my forehead
Bring me water, with a straw
Turn off the tv
Talk to me
Read me a story
Call the aide to clean me up –
I can’t ask you to do that
And besides, I’m too heavy for you
Come back later –
I won’t be here tomorrow.
-Janet Barnhart

I ask my cat
To sit in my lap
And with an extra dose of contempt
She shakes the dust of the room off her feet
And strolls velvety down the hall away.

My friend – allergic to all things cat –
Asks the cat to stay away and
She is snuggled in his lap
Faster than the question can be asked
Faster than he can stand up to stop the lap from existing.

I will call my cat Contrarian

-Vivian Tedford

I Ask My Lover to Leave
my skin. Instead, he holds
still, like deer eyes struck
with light. The pressure from
his weight now more present
than the menagerie of gifts
to be left behind, coming alive
in room-after-room long after
his touch has finally gone.

With appreciation,
Flose LaPierre
–Flose Boursiquot (@letitflosepoet)

The Ask
I ask the clown, can’t you please sit down?
Can’t you shut your mouth so foul?
Your clothes are invisible, please cover your ego.
Our eyes are scarred and it’s blindness that we fear.

There’s not a thing funny about your shoes too big,
Your hands so puny and your brain so limp.
Stop asking what your country can do for you.
Your whining, a heavier burden each day.

Please give us a break and admit you’re a snake,
With your bottomless pit of need.
You can still bee a hero. Buzz off, we implore you.
Go search for some shame and bless us adieu.

You’re excused from the table, now go to your room.
And think about what you’ve done to us all.
I’ll give you a dollar if you’ll just go away.
And promise to leave us for good.

~Noreen Sanders
Oakland, CA

In gratitude for Dave Johnson ❤️
Thank you again, Dave Johnson! What a great experience!

I ask my mother
to tell me
what she remembers
of my father
as she nursed him in his final days.
Gaunt, nearly gone, his bones
extruded; friable
the skin. She was tender
arranging the catheter
that poured the poison in.

She knelt before him,
long years divorced,
years longing. One day,
she says, he reached out
to touch her temple.
“So pretty. Did you dye it?”
She laughed.
“No, Mike, I’m just
going gray.”

–Moira Egan

I Asked my Father to Teach me
Teach you what, son? 
Teach me anything, dad
                                    with patience
                                    with kindness
When haven’t I done things  that way? he asks
And I cringe

Later we watch baseball on TV
Our unmet expectations lost in the grace of Willie Mays
Knowing that the Say Hey Kid roams the green grass of center field
An archetype holier than pain
But we can only see him small
In black and white
On an old 16-inch rectangular screen

–Barry Denny

I Ask Myself Not To Cry

Instead, I take care of the business
of hosting the memorial
for my father.
But, as I greet the guests
with smiles and hugs
tears appear
without effort or desire
rolling down my cheeks
and seasoning my words
of gratitude and love
with bitter salt.

–Gina A. Turner

I ask my mother for a story
Why she asks
Tell me something I don’t
about when you were young
Her words comfort me like a
soft embrace

–Jill Weinstein

I Ask My Mother to Remember

She shakes her head and smiles
into her tea. I don’t know where
she is, or when, but somewhere
there must be a place of soft
landings and swift dreams
of visitors who return from time
to time. She sips and takes
a swallow, a breath away from
remembering who I am.

—Deborah Purdy

I asked the sun not to set today,
I was not ready for today to end.

This day, the only day I knew I had with her,
Spent before I realized that it was time to go and not look back,
At the beautiful symphony we had created.

I told her, I wish you could stay,
She looked into my eyes and said,
“I would, but in this lifetime we only had today”,
So when the sun set over us, she left, and I crawled out from this dream and my bed.

–Rhythm Buaria

I Ask My Cat to Use the Toilet

He jumps onto the seat,
engages in a do-si-do around the bowl
before lowering his pink beans
to the waters edge.

Seven years late, yet progress
continues to amend the ritual.
In place of a dust-covered box,
a small ring of litter invites him
to release into porcelain.

Frustrated meows cease
as the pitter-patter stream

dances across the pool.
Now, he asks me for a treat in return.

–Shelby Coppola

I Ask My Mother for Acceptance

Looking for my mother from room
to room, I find her to tell her I will clean
the bathroom and ask her what does she use.
She hesitates to tell me, as if I just trespassed
into a sacred space for her. Don’t bother, she says,
I will do it tomorrow. I do it anyway, scrubbing the tub
as clean as I can make it. The next day, she spends hours
cleaning the entire bathroom, complaining about my father
and I making a mess of it again as if my cleaning was not
enough to wash away any of my sins.

–Sherese Francis

I ask you to understand

I write

about the same few things.

Thai warm breezes and fields of cassava,

homes and their teeming tenderness,

refugees starting their lives over in my American town,

Tibetan steppes I’ve never seen,

that I claim not to believe.

–Kathryn Stam

I Ask My Father
To tell me a story about the
Children left at home while
Momma left to reap and
Disobeyed her repeated
Admonition to let no one in.
How the bear came and
Swallowed them, and about
Momma’s rescue by slicing
Open the bear, removing the
Children, filling the bear’s
Belly with stones and sewing
Him together. When the bear
Bent for a drink of the river the
Weight of the stones dragged
Him down and everyone was saved.

–Gerald Harris

I Ask My Husband

to tell me about his time
in the navy when he stood
on the bridge of a destroyer.
He clears his throat and
leans back in his desk chair
that needs a squirt of WD-40
to calm the squeak.
On the wall behind him
he has taped a picture
of his ship that’s curling
around the edges and
on his desk is the latest
Tin Can Sailors newsletter.
Before he begins
I already know how proud
he was, still is.

–Judith O’Connell Hoyer (Wayland, Massachusetts)

I ask my father to untangle the fishing line
in the boat, under the Robert Moses bridge.
I ask my father for the knife he is holding
to cut the endless loops and knots.
“Never cut what can be untied.” he says.
Under the bridge my father helps me
un-walk the labyrinth of wire.
Until I can find the silver hook
to cast it into those dark waters
beneath our boat, out of the sun.

–Mike Cunningham

I ask my mother to pick up the phone

She might be in the bathroom
or she might be sleeping late
she can’t be playing bridge or tennis
her world in quarantine
pick up I say the way we bargain
with God for things we want
not to happen
pick up so I can take my walk
it’s the least you can do
the most I can do in quarantine
was Florida ever a good idea
and if I’m twenty years younger
am I twenty times less likely
pick up and I’ll know it’s just your panic
like Sandy Hook an hour’s drive
we floated out too far on the raft
Dad laughing at the adventure
me invincible at twelve
you gasped for air your face
a vessel about to sink
your trembling voice a rising tide
but we were there to kick our legs
to swim you back to shore
Dad and me we ordered lobster rolls
in a local shanty with sandy feet
if you’re thinking about that day
if you’re hearing a phone
if you’re there to listen

–Heather Newman

Transactional Analysis

Would you do this for me please? Well,
not so much for me as for
the gentleman waiting in line
behind you, patiently, although
he has places he has to be, people
he has to meet, as do I
in fact, pressing engagements
that really cannot wait. So, please
quit fumbling with your keys,
give the cashier what she’s
asking for, note that she’s being patient, too,
and let’s get on with it. Time’s resting with you.

–Bruce Robinson

I Ask My Wife to Read

Aloud from the paper
As we lie in bed.

She tells me she’s had enough
Of the news and instead
Makes up a song about
The stray cat who lives
On our porch.


I ask my husband to play

I ask my husband to play
What song would you like me to play?
Faithfully by Journey, I say
He begins to play the guitar
My memories flood back to our first dance
We danced slowly at our wedding, to this song
Will you sing like Steve?
Yes, he begins to sing the words
The beauty that comes from his lips and finger tips
It fills my ears
My eyes fill up with tears
I don’t want this moment to end

–Eva Weitzel

Thank you for this inspiring program during a time of such upheaval.

I ask my father

I ask my father how he feels.
I don’t remember about what and that’s not important anyway.
We are walking along the Jersey shoreline.
My father does not hesitate and says he has no feelings.
That he is a scientist and there is no place for feelings in his world.
I am 19 and know very little but feelings.

Years, decades, lives pass.
My father is dead now.
When people ask me about him I often share this exchange:
My father and I are walking on a beach.
I ask my father how he feels.
He says he has no feelings.
I feel our distance sweep across the sand
and become a part of me.

–Shellie Winkler

I ask her to love me

and so she does,
in all these infinite,
infinitesimal ways.
a look.
a touch.
in silence on the couch.
in return, she knows,
i will give her anything.
and so she asks
for nothing.

–Mike Howie

I ask my boss for $25 more

I ask my boss for a bigger raise
twenty-five dollars a week more.
She looks me straight in the eyes and smiles
and showers me with gentle praise
for five years of dedication
exceeding most expectations.
Yet she glances sideways
drops her head and mumbles,
one time too many for me,
“I’ll see what I can do”.
And I ease a letter on her desk
and walk beyond the closed door
into a world of then open doors
full of possibilities.

–Kiswana Dee

I Don’t Ask Anybody For Help

I can do things all by myself
with just me, like put my socks on, and I put my shirt on, and I put
my underwear on already.
And I drink milk at bedtime,
and I cannot touch the outlet because it’s dangerous,
and I sleep in my bed by myself,
and I put the tv on
and I know how to pause it,
so I don’t miss it,
to do my poem.
And I dance.
But I like to dance

–Jacqui Andre Fabri-Baksh

Autopsy of an Onion

upon layer
upon perfectly
fitted layer

of tears release
when sliced
to its center
a tiny

first figure
fetally curving
in on an even

no pit
no pearl
no embryo

of pain
to deliver
and cry
out about

–Joe Elliot

I ask the sun


says she will,

dips below the oak

the fence.

next day I climb the oak

confront her on her way over.

ask why she left.

tells me she’s been here

thousands of years.

the earth is the one

keeps turning.

—Emily Villani


He cocks his brown and white head, begins,
“Wendy, why in all these years did you not
let me off the leash?

You never let me run the city streets in search
of rats, or chase gophers in spring fields, or
swim after ducks at the farm.

Were you scared for me? I was born
a Jack Russel, a ratter breed, you know.
I have no fear. I like trouble.

Still when you left your desk and said,
Walkie, walkie, I wagged for you,
lowered my head to take the leash.

I shook my dog tags, rattled my chain.
knew there were other canine out there
to growl at and sniff. Ever the optimist,

I knew there was something fun to find
in city streets. I knew you loved me,
gave up adventure and went for peace.”

–Wendy Larsen

i ask the night to stay,

she clips her talons into stars,
and holds against the tide.
but the sun floods her throat,
and her single moon eye comes milky.

i love the chill of her last breath on my cheek,
and though the mornings hand is warm,

i turn away.

i know what it’s orange caress has cost:

all of the magnetic mysteries
of the blue dark,
laid bare and honest
in the light,

like a skeleton,
betraying the divine question
of the flesh.

–Valentin (

I Ask My Brother to Remember

He talks about the summer when he was five – I was seven.
Together we would ride our battered blue & rust colored bike
I stood & pedaled.
He sat on the bike’s back fender with Mom’s white pillow for cushioning.
Up & down & around the street of our world, we biked
until the moon told us it was time to go home.

–Phylise Smith


Where We sing together
Our voices tune to the frequency of the soul.
We meet at the chord more familiar than breath.

Fleeting in the Now and in a vast chorus of One,
proudly naked spirits dance the resonant song of awe.
Throwing back our heads and letting it flow,
we sing out to the grateful beat of Life.

Where We sing the song of love and grace,
we jump the cliff of time and place.
We sing the truth song we’ve always known
in simple surrender to eternal waves of harmony.

–Noreen Sanders (Oakland, CA)

I Ask My Son to Help with the Dishes
after Li-Young Lee

He excuses himself from his seat
at the dining room table
and joins me in the tiny kitchen
we have dreamed of remodeling
since he was a boy.

Shoulder to shoulder we stand
at the sink, rinsing and drying
in silence.

There is so much I feel like telling him—
about the emptiness his absence
has created in my heart, how that
same heart swells with pride
at the man he is becoming,
how it nourishes my soul
to have him home, if only briefly—

but all I can muster, as tears pool
in my eyes, is a feeble nod
in the direction of the linens drawer:

“There’s a dry towel in there,” I say,
“if you need it.”

–Robert Grant

I Ask My Sister to Choose a Movie

For us to watch tonight.
She selects a movie
I did not expect her to pick,
but am little surprised by.

It is a horror.
She tells me it is not “too scary.”
My sister looks at me and laughs.
I can tell she enjoys my suffering,
which is really all that matters.

–Kori Cooper

I ask

I ask my ancestors to forgive me

For I have forgotten

The soil of our land

The smell of the village

The taste of goat stew and jollof rice

I no longer dream of the hunt

As the tall grass whispers where

gazelle and antelope hide

Instead i find myself

Standing upwind on the corners of 125th, Fulton Ave

Halstead or Cottage Grove

Unaware that the predator in blue

Not only stalks, but is every ready

To kill without provocation or remorse

My ancestors are witnesses

To my my blind eye and dull wit

I have been lulled into thinking




Black skin was never

Expected to be

Part of this collective

Let alone accepted or embraced

Black bodies were meant to be





Hung and


How foolish could I have been

I ask my ancestors not to chastise me

How could I ignore

The stench of the hold

The violence of the waves

Or the millions of souls that

Create the path of angry winds that

Sweep from the west coast of home

To the east coast of incarceration

Every June through November

Reminding everyone, the parrished

must be heard

I ask my ancestors not to forsake me

Without you

How will i till the new ground

Plant the good seed

Nourish the sapling

Without you

Who will teach me to love

Teach me to love

Teach me to love

I ask my ancestors

Teach me to love, again

–d. alan ward

I ask my mother for nothing.

She responds with no offers,
lays open no resources.
She has placed it all in CDS, spread
throughout Sarasota, locked
and isolated.

Like her mother who never
left her apartment or bought something
she didn’t return. Maybe it was
the Cossacks that stole
their serenity, beat the living
goods right out of them, leaving
scars buried alive in their
children’s children.

–Linda Hillman Chayes

I Ask My Father to Play

He lifts his harmonica
from the worn cardboard box
blows soft practice notes
then waltzes it around
the living room to the tune of
Beautiful Dreamer

–Joan Blessing

Tell Me the Truth

I ask dad why there are so
many people of color
with the surname Hill

We are all fair skinned
He tells me the moniker
was taken from plantation owners
Something else occurs to me
I inquire why he wed my mom
As they were not well suited
He spoke in a serious tone and revealed
He was a traditional man
I was 18 years and attempting to know this guy before me
I plant seeds from produce as he used to
He was my first love
And will always have a place in my heart


I Ask My Friend to Read Me a Poem

He takes me from places
to memories, I’ve never lived,
where war and joy have survived
excruciating chaos and extreme splendor.

My body and mind together adrift
to places, I’ve never seen.
He voices the memories I’ve never lived
from times I will never see.

And how much joy I feel
to have traveled through his voice;
waltzing on grasses, floating on airs
I will never breathe.

As I land on my feet my body speaks.
And it knows I can survive some more.

–María Paz

I ask my mother to cook

she has her favourite grocery store
to pick the ingredients
for my favourite filipino dishes
that she learnt from her mother
in their province.
she chops up the garlic, tomatoes, onions, bittermelon
and adds the eggs perfectly.
there are eggplant omelette,
porridge, pancit, chayote recipes
that i adore,
the way she sings whilst she cooks and
walks around the house.

–Jade Fassbinder

I ask my daughter

I ask my daughter to play her cello for me
As she did every evening for 15 years
While I cooked pasta for dinner.
Her look tells me the cello dried up
And won’t sing again
Like it used to
When the family was whole—
Before the great loss.
I wait a year and
I ask my daughter to play cello for me
She tries, but no sound from the strings.
They’re still mourning.
We eat pasta, and remember.

I Asked My Father to Teach Me

Teach you what, son?
Teach me anything, dad
with patience
with kindness
When haven’t I done things that way? he asks
And I cringe

Later we watch baseball on TV
Our unmet expectations lost in the grace of Willie Mays
Knowing that the Say Hey Kid roams the green grass of center field
An archetype holier than pain
But we can only see him small
In black and white
On an old 16-inch rectangular screen

–Barry Denny