She Smiled – A Poem

And she was Freed

Through the Right of Combat

Won with Fairness and Grace

Triumphant, she scaled the Highest Tower

Of the Fortress that had been her Prison

Below her, Chaos reigned

As her captors pointed fingers

And ran away from Responsibility

She smiled, basking in her strength and resilience.

Image credit: Sean Thomas @ Unsplash
For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a huge dragon on the corner rooftop of a building. The building has columns and a balcony and the corner rooftop is domed.

Catching up with inspiration from Sadje’s What Do You See #94 and Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #272 – Freed, #273 – Right, #274 – Fortress and #275 – Chaos. It’s been so long since I’ve put ‘fingers to computer” (the modern day “pen to paper”) – this poem came easy after seeing this fantastical picture from Sadje.

Sometimes, I am dragon in the picture – strong, fierce, fighting for what she believes is right, triumphant in her accomplishment. But often times, I am more seen in the “traditional” view of the dragon – the bad one that needs to be defeated, the one causing chaos and trouble, the unreasonable one. I look at all the Disney movies where the “bad guys” are actually women – mothers – and wonder about the families of origin of those story writers.

What is it about a strong woman that seems scary? That make people want to contain them? Tame them? Dampen their greatness? Simone Biles – Serena Williams – Hillary Clinton – they have nice teeth and no spiked wings, I haven’t seen them sitting on any rooftops….so what is it about strong women that make people want to vilify them?

©️ 2021 iido

Doubting Starlight – Prosery

The starlight winks, as if it is a joke that it is crucial to finding the way. Is this? There is no beginning or end – the sky goes on and on and on – how do we know this is the right one to follow? Balthazar says this one suddenly appeared. Melchior observes this same one hasn’t wavered course.  

Gaspar holds the compass in one hand and my hand in the other, “My dear, trust my friends, this is the one, He will be the one.” 

I smile at him, my king and my love. “I will follow you to the ends of the earth, but this star, is it really that important? I see it twinkling, laughing at us poor mortals who follow without knowing the destination.” 

Smiling, Gaspar leads me to the camels, “We will know we have arrived, when we get there.”

Photo by Neale LaSalle on Pexels.com

Hello, Readers! Merril’s Prosery Monday at d’Verse and Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #271 – Starlight inspired this little story and brought me out of my writing drought. If you are a Christian, you might recognize the names used here although in the Bible, the names of the maji or where they came from or even how many there actually were and what they rode were never specified.

Merril’s prosery prompt also required the use of the phrase, “Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.” written by US Poet Laureate, Jo Harjo in “A Map to the Next World.” I changed the punctuation to fit the story, hoping to evoke the sense of faith and trust.

This sense of faith and trust is something that, I feel, is missing in our world right now – or at least in my world. Our state will be removing the mandates for masks at the end of this month. From then on, we will rely on the “honor system” – that people who are not wearing masks are fully vaccinated (as per CDC guidelines) and that if you are not fully vaccinated, that you will continue to mask.

I doubt that everyone who is not wearing a mask will be fully vaccinated.

As of today, only 45% of people in my state are vaccinated. That means it is more likely that the unmasked person in front of me is unvaccinated.

Without faith and trust that the people around me are doing the right thing and following the rules like I am, the honor system doesn’t work. Is faith and trust crucial to finding our way in this world? I would say, “Yes.”

©️ 2021 iido

Regret in Five Syllables

A letter unsent

A blog not posted

Kind words only thought

A hand not offered 

A meeting not kept

Resentment held tight 

A smile with just teeth

A shrug and eye roll

Blindfolds for the pain

A call not answered

A hug with no arms

Dessert not eaten 

Just five syllables

Can weigh down my heart

Red heart partially covered with a multicolored scrap of paper on a teal, mermaid tail embossed background. There's an orange scrap of paper to the left of the heart and three scraps of paper at the top that look  like multicolored clouds.
Untitled collage art created by Sophia Do (2021).
Used without permission from the artist but that’s because I’m her mom.

Hello Readers! The weeks fly by and, although my thoughts are in line and verse, by life does not follow that rhythm. I finally caught up with Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge with #265 – Unsent. Patrick seems to be on a hiatus as well so I will not worry about my streak. But I have also missed some wonderful prompts from Sadje and D’Verse and Kate and all the other places I find inspiration.

A life without inspiration is no way to live. Inspiration (and by extrapolation, hope) all point to some type of current connection – to a person, an idea – leading to something in the future. Without inspiration and hope, life would be meaningless. Why would we do the things we do? What inspires our behavior? What are we hoping to accomplish? What would we regret if we did not do it? Or would we regret it more if we did do it?

These questions run through my head as I work through all the projects I have going on right now. I’ve started a business and have expanded the amount of volunteer work that I am involved in. School is almost over so summer planning is underway. What I haven’t been able to do is run – my knee injury is still not healed but my elbow is feeling better. I haven’t cancelled my Spartan race though! Inspiration and hope…would I regret it more if I did or didn’t do it? What would you do?

©️ 2021 iido

An Insignificant Birthday – A Short Story

It was an insignificant birthday, the number unknown to the people attending. They weren’t supposed to even realize that the cake meant more than the sugar, eggs and flour it contained.

She had labored in the kitchen alone, with only her mixer and baking pans for conversation. The clanging and banging and whirring making the sounds of happiness if not the feeling. The last minute idea to make a lemon frosting twisted her mouth – tartness was as close to bitter as she would allow herself to get. 

She searched for the stool she used to reach the cabinet above the refrigerator. She only used it once a year. The rest of the time, the stool was hidden so as not to remind her of this day. The year long amnesia allowed her to have a reason to procrastinate.

But soon the stool was found as the smell of freshly baked cake wafted through the kitchen. Her guests would arrive soon and she still needed to let the cake cool before smoothing on the lemon frosting. Hurriedly, she placed the stool by the fridge, stood on it and opened the cabinet, pulling out the jar from it’s abode. She stepped off the stool, care overcoming speed, and sat down. 

The jar was smooth and cool despite the bright glow emanating from inside. She saw her reflection on it’s curved surface, then adjusted her eyes so she looked inside, seeing each individual light bouncing against the glass like fireflies conscripted for summertime entertainment. 

She took a deep breath, grasped the cork top and pulled. A pop sent a shiver down her spine. She quickly covered the glass mouth with her hand. She couldn’t afford even one escaping. She brought the bottle to her lips, lifted her hand up a fraction and whispered her birthday wish into the jar. She slammed the cork top back on and again peered into the jar, marveling as the wish unfolded, brightened and began to bounce off the transparent walls. 

“It’s better this way,” she said and quickly returned the jar to the overhead cabinet for another year long exile. 

Image credit: Andrew Morris @ Unsplash 
For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a lantern sitting on the wet sand of a beach. There are fairy lights inside the lantern.

This beautiful photo from Sadje’s What Do You See #77 inspired this story – one of many that popped into my head as I was pondering this prompt. Being that my family is in the midst of birthday mania (5 out of 6 people in my family have birthdays within weeks of each other), I chose this story of a different kind of birthday.

Turning a year older has never been a big deal for me. It’s been mostly an excuse to have a party and be with people who I enjoy being with. In my family, we’ve toned down the material aspect of birthday parties and have instead focused on celebrating the person and honoring how that person wants to celebrate their special day.

This would be the 2nd year that my family has celebrated their birthday the “pandemic way” – no party, no special outing, nothing except a cake, a balloon, and dinner of their choice. We didn’t even plan a “birthday drive-by” which was all the rage last year (this was when friends would drive by the birthday person’s house with birthday signs and lots of honking). We were lucky enough to see my parents and in-laws during this time since they are all vaccinated, but the feeling of having a big celebration just isn’t there.

We still have a long way to go before this pandemic is over. When we can go about with no masks and hug people and eat face to face, that would be the time to celebrate. Until them – mask up, keep your distance and get vaccinated!

©️ 2021 iido

Silence is Not an Option – A Poem

In the whisper of night

My voice finds her way

Through the crack in my heart

Image credit: Jasmin Chew @ Unsplash 
For the visually challenged reader, the visually a young Asian woman looking up to the sky, where a crescent moon is visible. Her stance is meditative.

Sadje’s photo choice for her What Do You See #75 pairs beautifully with Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #270 – Whisper. Many times in the past weeks, I have looked up to the heavens, eyes closed, willing a moment of peace, whispering a prayer but really wanting to shout my anger and anguish to the sky.

I was asked to write about the recent news coverage of violence against Asian Americans for a local group that I write for. I am the only Asian person in this group and as such, the assumption was that writing a piece about this topic would be easy. Even I thought it would be easy…but it wasn’t. I’ve been conditioned to believe in the “model minority myth” – the one that says that Asians (especially Asian women) are the “good ones,” the “minority group” that has been able to achieve the American Dream, and because we don’t want to lose this status, we should overlook the ways in which we have been discriminated against, the ways in which racism and sexism has adversely affected our lives. I’ve always been told to keep my head down, do my work, don’t complain, don’t speak my mind, don’t rock the boat. That was how we have survived.

But now – it seems obvious that despite this moniker (that really only served to separate Asians/Asian Americans from other communities of color), we are not exempt from being victims of violence due to racism. No matter how quiet we are, how much work we do, or how many ways we serve this country – we are still considered “other, different, foreign.” There is no way we can assimilate our eyes, our skin, our hair to the white culture of the United States of America.

Yet for years, generations, we have kept quiet. Sure, there have been a few who have spoken out, who have gotten politically involved, trying to make a difference, make a change. But for the most of us, the rest of us, we have continued the mantra of “keep your head down, do your work, don’t complain” – don’t be noticed and they will forget about you and let you live your life in peace.

This belief is like when little kids cover their eyes and think that just because they can’t see us, that we can’t see them.

It’s cute and fun when you’re two, but it’s dangerous and scary to believe this when you’re 22 or 42 or 62.

Asian Americans need to open our eyes. We are not immune to racism or sexism or any other – ism. Whether we stay silent or not, whether we work or not, whether we save lives as a doctor or not, whether we serve in the armed forces or not (I can go on, but I think (I hope) you get the point), none of these behaviors can combat racism because racism needs to identified, racism needs to be called out an held accountable, racism needs to be decried with the loudest voice we have.

Racism needs to be identified.

Racism needs to be called out and held accountable.

Racism needs to be decried in the loudest voice we have.

I hope my broken-hearted voice is loud enough in the roar of day.

©️ 2021 iido

The Guardians – A Poem

Among ancient giants

Along paths etched through pine needles

As hesitant fingers of mist wrap around me

I follow the curve and stop

At the unexpected whisper

Of two moss covered guards

Warning me not to disturb the peace

Image credit: Eric Muhr @ Unsplash
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a forest scene with a path going deep into the forest. The trees at the distance are shrouded in mist.

Sadje’s What Do You See #74 offered this serene photo of a misty path winding through the forest – a perfect day for a peaceful hike! At least it’s peaceful to us – but what of the plants and animals who live there? Is it peaceful for them as we traipse through their home?

This poem was also inspired by Kate’s Friday Fun – Etching and Sgeoil at the Saturday Ragtag Daily Prompt – Unexpected. The mood of this poem was unexpected for me. I had thought of writing a poem of two people in love, walking through the woods and etching their initials into a tree. But after reading about the parts of a tree’s bark and how, after the protective outer layer that we see, the next layer (called phloem) is living conductive tissue that carries food throughout the tree, I got to thinking….

The romantic act of lovers carving initials into a tree is actually hurting the tree. While it may not immediately kill a tree, the carving will leave a tree open to infection and will result in a permanent scar. (For more information – read here and here.) How often do we do something that – intentionally or unintentionally – hurts another living thing?

Since the start of lockdowns due to the pandemic, the amount of carbon dioxide in the planet was reduced by 20%. That means that people staying home reduced the amount of air pollution in the world. While this dip may not be enough to offset overall global warming, it shows how significant an impact humans make in the world. (Jane’s Climate Change World Map has a great visual on this topic.)

This pandemic has etched a permanent scar on our collective human psyche. But what scars have we left on the world?

©️ 2021 iido

The Geometry of Sunshine – A Haibun

Parallel lines seep through the leaves. It highlights the perimeter of moss, a verdant tangent kissing the circumference of rocks and logs. Morning dew collects in an overturned mushroom umbrella, bending the light at a 45 degree angle. The reflection distracts a vibrant red cardinal from his song. He puffs out his chest, taking measured steps along the branch, before resuming his aria in the spotlight. 

A grid of trees holds points of sunshine, a linear connection between time and purpose. At one vertex, a grateful squirrel pops out her head, inhaling fresh air, thinking of her cache of acorns. At another, a woodpecker begins a radius from bark through phloem to heartwood. The tap-tap-tapping sending perpendicular reverberations, intersecting the quiet morning light. 

Morning’s right angles

Chords of sunshine connecting

The shape of nature

Full disclosure – this is not a “morning sun”, it’s the setting sun. I am a night owl and not an early bird.

Catching up with Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge! This haibun incorporates #264 – Sunshine, #266 – Vibrance (I used “vibrant” instead), #267 – Light and #269 – Geometry. Geometry was one of my best subjects so this poem was a fun challenge! Can you find all the geometry terms?

I have always loved math even though after a time, the concepts started to elude me. This happened when I started high school, around the time when my head became filled with other things. I didn’t understand this phenomenon until I became an adult and studied it my feminist social work classes.

My older daughter (the author) turns 13 tomorrow. I see this process starting to happen to her – she is really good at math and science (she’s a whiz at computer coding) yet she claims she hates this subjects. She is only one of three girls in her private school class and I know she’s heard comments from other students when she is able to grasp a concept before others.

Nature can be cruel (as the saying goes), but nature is also full of beauty and wonder. This is also true of humans. We can chose what we focus on. We can chose what narrative governs our lives. I hope my girls can see the options and make the best choice.

©️ 2021 iido

Perpendicular Perspective – A Poem

You look down on me without realizing 

Your strength and beauty perfectly balanced 

From your perch 

A perpendicular perspective 

Your artist eyes watching 

My plateaued trajectory 

You don’t realize your wings are ready

To feel the air and lift

An arrow at the end of your line

Infinite, vertical 

Do not continue to look down

My line ends in a point

Flatlined living

Look up with your artist eyes

And imagine, create

Look up with your eagle eyes 

And focus, achieve

The scale has shifted

I look up at you and realize

You’re strength and beauty perfectly balanced 

Image credit: Sonny Mauricio
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a bald eagle sitting in the bare branches of a tree. It is looking down at the camera

Hello! Hello! It’s been a while – over a month (yikes!) since I’ve last posted. I’ve been busy – and I’m excited to tell you with what – but first, I’m catching up…well, you know, catching up in my usual “late to the party” way…is there any other way? (cue eye-roll and self-deprecating facetiousness)

Three things inspired me with this poem. First, was this adorable picture from Sadje’s What do you see #73. I missed the deadline to be included in her round up, but you can read all the other wonderful submissions here. Second, was Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #268 – Scale and #269 – Perpendicular. Now, I have been a long time fan of Patrick’s challenges and am actually on a streak. Being the “competitive” person that I am, I will have to go back and complete the other challenges because there are no breaks when streaking!

Third, and probably the most meaningful inspiration for this poem is my older daughter who just self-published her first book at the tender age of 12! Yes – my daughter has published her own book before I have! At an age when I was consumed with awkwardness and other growing pains, my daughter has the self-confidence, the motivation, and the perseverance to spend this past pandemic year writing a book and designing and creating the cover art. She even did all the research for how she can self-publish it.

If you can’t tell, I am very proud of her and very much in awe of her accomplishment.

You can find her book on Amazon. She joins the ranks of other esteemed writers on WP such as Mich (see her book here) and Ivor (see his books here and here) and Chris (see one of her many books here).

©️ 2021 iido

Hunter vs. Runner – A Haibun and Runfession #16, January 2021

Her white belly, like a dangerous cloud against the blue sky, was difficult to see at first. But hints of brown and the predatory glint of sharp eyes gave her away before her ear-piercing screech did.   

I pump my arms faster, willing my legs to follow suit as I traverse a country road where sage greens are losing the battle against fiery reds and commanding yellows. We are racing, this eagle and I, although my plodding footfalls are in no way as graceful as her gliding gilded wingspan. Wind rustles the golden corn stalks, the soothing cheer interrupted by a final taunting screech as the eagle and I part ways.

Hunter’s glint flash bright

I am not competition

Does that make me prey?

My first runfession of 2021! I’m finally able to link up with Marcia’s Healthy Slice, the creator of the Runfession Forum. It’s been months since I’ve had a proper runfession and my soles were getting heavy.

I was able to incorporate Patrick’s Pic and a Word #263 – Bright into this haibun that was inspired by Frank J. Tassone’s prompt of a haibun about eagles for d’Verse’s Haibun Monday. Full confession (since this is a runfession!) – I think the 1st picture above is actually a hawk (taken during a run in downtown Harrisburg) and, while the 2nd picture is an eagle, it’s not real but an iron sculpture at the Hawk Mountain Conservatory in Kempton, PA.

I did try racing a raptor during a run a few years ago. I wasn’t sure exactly what type of bird it was (probably a hawk) but I was on a country road training to get my road apple award when I noticed the bird flying over the corn fields to my right. I was so intrigued by it’s elegance that I actually almost fell into a ditch on the side of the road. Thankfully, I caught myself in time and only stumbled. By them the bird flew away, it’s screech was probably laughter at the clumsy creature hobbling along below.

But I digress…I’m trying to distract you from the true purpose of this post which is to give a good runfession because Saucony knows, I need it….

I runfess…2020 was dismal year for running for me. Despite doing 100 miles in February 2020 for the Taji 100, when the pandemic hit in March and everything closed down, my motivation was gone faster than the time it takes me to wash my hands (20 seconds or singing “Happy birthday” twice). But 2021 is new year and I have already committed to several challenges this year.

I runfess…Maybe I’m crazy but I’ve always wanted to run across the USA like Forrest Gump. So when a friend asked me if I wanted to run the Amerithon with her, of course I said yes! January was a slow start with only 41 miles for the month, but at least it was a start.

I runfess…I’m doing a little double dipping with my miles for February. Not only am I running the Amerithon, but I also signed up for the Taji 100 (again!). Yes, 100 miles in the month of February for Team RWB and to support our men and women in the military. I have a nephew serving in the Air Force and numerous friends who are retired military so this challenge has significant meaning to me.

I runfess….I am still injured and am probably a little crazy to attempt this high mileage after several months of inactivity. However, I am tired of feeling like the injured mouse just waiting for some eagle or hawk to swoop down and put me out my misery. I’m actually walking about 90% of my miles, so while that will take longer, I think (hope) it will keep me from totally exacerbating my injuries. Just don’t tell my sports medicine doc what I’m doing…

I am so glad that running/walking has returned to being a bright spot in my life! I do feel so much better with regular exercise. Even if I don’t reach 100 miles in February or complete the 3521 miles for Amerithon, I know that the journey is more important than the destination. With the pandemic still going strong here in the USA, I’m not sure what else this year will bring, but at least my intentions are clear – 2021 will be a better year!

©️ 2021 iido