The Dinner – Prosery

The wine did not matter. Nor the decadent dinner of lobster and steak. Not even the flowers with their heady scent. And not the sunlight highlighting your cheekbones and good breeding.

You hand me a package and when I open it and look crestfallen. You explain, “It is the moon wrapped in brown paper.” Your face was full of pride and expectation. 

“But darling,” I say, ”I had asked for fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, with malt vinegar and salt to sting my lips for you to kiss and tongue turn to tingle.”

“You deserve more than cold fish and soggy chips,” you counter. “How can I compare your beauty to fried food? I am a man of means and I mean to give you the best.”

I shake my head, the silence steeping the air and the realization sinking into my heart.

Image credit: Olga Solodilova Unsplash 
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a couple dining. The man has a glass of wine in his hand and he is looking at his companion. The woman is staring the other way, holding a few long stem flowers.

Early for Sadje’s What do you see #121 but late for d’Verse Prosery with Björn’s prompt to use the line “It is a moon wrapper in brown paper” in a 144 word piece of prose. If I really wanted to stretch it, this writing also fulfills d’Verse’s Tuesday Poetics for an un-Valentine’s Day Poem theme however it is prose and not a poem so that may disqualify it. With my aversion to Valentine’s Day, I was quite happy to see these prompts.

Yes, it’s true – I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I am a big fan of chocolates but this day just seems so superficial to me. I am especially not a big fan of kids bringing in valentines to school. At least at my children’s school, they make all the kids bring in a valentine for each kid in the class. Gone are the days of worrying that you wouldn’t get a valentines in your shoebox mailbox. Maybe that is where my aversion to this holiday comes from.

There is just something so artificial about this day. Why are kids – who have no notion of romantic love – even celebrating this day? Why are we forcing them to proclaim love (or even friendship) to kids who may be mean to them? Plus, all that pink and red and white paper and glitter that will just pollute the earth. And the candy and sweets! We still have Halloween candy and now more comes in.

One blessing of this pandemic, for me, was the chance to stop and be more thoughtful about what I was doing and why. I’m now looking at what my family is doing and asking that same question. What are we doing and why are we doing it?

© iido 2022

Song and Dance in the City – A Haibun

Ubers honk as they make their way through crowded city streets. Buses slowly rumble past. Delivery bikes ring bells of warning. But in this corner of the street, only the divine laughter of a fortuitous meeting can be heard. 

It started off as the dance of strangers trying to occupy the same space. It could have become a “West Side Story” type tango, but a smirk of good humor turned the would-be spectacle into a delicious salsa of dialogue. Understanding swayed in the gentle arms of laughter. Commonality cha-cha-chatted with disparity, a note-worthy syncopation that made the conversation a harmony amidst the city’s melody. 

The new friends did not wear Pollyanna’s rose-colored spectacles of previous generations. They knew this relationship must be protected, like amber sealing off a cut in a tree. What insects caught in the resin, could be analyzed later, but for now,  the enjoyment of this opportune meeting – whether through kismet or serendipity –  resounds in the city streets.

Amidst city sounds

The divine dance of friendship

Sways to laughter’s song

Image credit: Jed Villigo @ Unsplash
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows three young men standing on a city street and laughing at a shared joke. Two of men are Black and one, holding scooter handles, is white.

A (late) submission for Sadje’s What Do You see #119. This haibun was also inspired by the picture she chose for WDYS #118. I’ve been experiencing writers’ block the past week or so, so while these images brought many ideas to my mind, I wasn’t able to put them all together until now. Patrick’s Pic and Word Challenge #300 – City, #299 – Amber, #298 – Divine and #297 – Spectacle also served as inspiration, tying all my thoughts into this haibun.

The past few weeks have definitely been roller-coaster of happenings, bringing with it the ups and downs of emotions. Physically – it’s been all up – I completed a January Step Challenge with my running group, She RUNS this Town (formerly known as Moms RUN this Town, but changed to the pronoun for inclusivity since not all members are moms). My team won 1st place which was totally awesome! We were consistently getting over 20K steps a day – well, not me, but my teammates did which is amazing! I’ve started the Taji100 (100 miles in February to support veterans) and am currently in 3rd place in my age group for my state.

Emotionally – it’s been mostly down – my good friend suddenly lost her mother to COVID, we’ve also had numerous COVID infections at our church which has made my work there difficult, we’ve had several good friends also come down with COVID and now my daughter is sick with strep throat (thank goodness it’s not COVID!). I am trying to be like that tree with the cut, letting amber flow out to seal it off and trap whatever insects (aka stress) caused the cut to analyze for later.

February is Black History Month in the USA so this photo of two Black men talking to a white man really captured my interest. As you might know. the issue of racism is still very prevalent here in the USA, as evidenced by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery (which I’ve written about here and here), George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people in 2020. Now, some Americans are in an uproar about Critical Race Theory (even erroneously thinking that Black History Month is part of CRT) which takes away from actually addressing the issues of racism and working towards equity and yes, friendship – or at least, respectful connection – between people of different ethnic backgrounds.

Diversity is a strength. Being empathetic is a strength. Being able to laugh in the midst of trying times is a strength. Can we find strength to be the harmony?

©️ 2022 iido

The Encounter – A Double Nonet

Struggling so hard to grow in this world

Reaching and stretching to the sun

Pushing between the stone cracks

Swaying in the warm breeze

Standing tall and free

Fragrant beauty

Beckoning

A touch

Sweet

Small

Tender

Curious

With gentleness

Feeling nature’s strength 

Wrapped in delicate green

Pink softness walks quietly

Whiskered and furry ball of purr

Sharing in a similar struggle

Image credit: Dimhou @ Pixabay
For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a black and white kitten playing with a green flower-bearing shoot growing in between the paving stones.

This adorable photo from Sadje’s What Do You See # 115 inspired this double nonet. I thought the form lent itself to the idea of a meeting between two different entities.

Writing this poem made me think a lot about other encounters I have had in the past years and how they’ve changed. Making small talk with a stranger used to be so easy, but now, this act seems “risky,” fraught with suspicion and caution. Do I strike up a conversation with the unmasked person in line with me? How do I do that if they can’t see my smile behind my mask? How do we signal to each other that we are open, “curious with gentleness” – that we want to get to know them and not to judge them? Tenderness and compassion seem to be in such short supply lately. When will we realize that we all share in a similar struggle?

©️ 2022 iido

Candle – An Acrostic Poem

Compassionate

Answers

Not

Denial

Lessens

Errors

May this candle lead us to a better 2022.

A lovely photo from Sadje’s What Do You See #114 to bring inspiration, motivation and hope for the new year.

Light has always been the remedy of darkness, it’s heat keeping the cold at bay. My one resolution this year is to be a better candle. How can we be better candles this year?

© iido 2022

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

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

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