faithful :: dara wier

You come as close as the skin on my face,
As if you were a sure enough wind for me to walk into.
In woodgrain on a doorframe of a door I walk out of
You wander and I wander within you.
With luciferin, luciferase, and oxygen you light the way.
A mid-summer’s late evening scatters you so
That by midnight all of the stars that surround us
By morning are cresting by curving by blazing.
You’re light that’s passed through my eyes.
I see you in profile as if sharpened and stenciled
Examining creases in the palm of my hand.
Exchanging places in ground fog with black flares.
What is this translucence you’ve dropped between us?
When will some sure enough wind arrive to blow this curtain aside?

print :: billy collins

In the dining room there is a brown fish
hanging on the wall who swims along
in his frame while we are eating dinner.

He swims in candlelight for all to see,
as if he has been swimming forever, even
in the darkness of the ink before someone thought

to draw him and the thin reeds waving in his stream
and the clear pebbles strewn upon the sand.
No wonder he continues his swimming

deep into the night, long after we have
blown out the candles and gone upstairs to bed.
No wonder I find him in the pale morning

light, still swimming, still looking out at me
with his one, small, spellbound eye.

typing the menu :: nellie wong

Not a day goes by
when Ma, in her blue waitress uniform,
stops me reading The Oakland Tribune
to dictate, precisely at 3:30 P.M.,
the next day’s menu.

All right, Ma says, in English,
tomorrow we’ll serve
Baked Spaghetti
Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots
Fried Breast of Lamb and
Boiled Ox Tongue with Spanish Sauce.

My mouth waters
as she decides the next day’s specials.
Ma doesn’t need to say
Breaded Veal Cutlets
Fried Oysters or
Prime Rib of Beef
because these are always
on the menu every day.

Though I can write in shorthand,
I scribble the specials in long hand
and step down into Bah Bah’s office
and insert a a piece of paper
into the old Royal typewriter.
I type tomorrow’s menu
watching the purple letters spring up
like soldiers marching in union
filling up the sheet, such plums and grapes
for our daily lives.

I proofread carefully,
the typed menu, making sure
I typed the correct specials
that Ma dictated,
making sure that each item
was spelled correctly
just from memory
because Spell Check
was a futuristic ploy.

With the labor of my fingers,
my back, my eyes
staring at the list of items
that ranged from Halibut Steak
for 50 cents to
Prime Rib of Beef
for 95 cents
knowing that my fingers
helped to support the family,
my secretarial skills a blip
of the family business
known as The Great China Restaurant
Ai Joong Wah
at 723 Webster Street
in Chinatown, Oakland, California.

When my sisters and I labored
without wage
but survived with tips
and ngow ngiook fahn
Beef over Rice
served us by Bock Gung
the head cook
when Ma and Bah Bah
weren’t looking.

When World War II filled
The Great China with customers
Pinky of Milen’s Jewlers
Mr. Carlson of Carlson’s Confectionery
Johnny, the boxer, and his girlfriend Lucille
with her ruby red lips and white teeth
Thlon doy
single men
families
pensioners
workers from gas stations,
the parachute factory
and herb and poultry stores,
tenants from The Aloha Hotel,
gypsies with their love
for bowls of steamed rice overflowing
with gravy.

Typing the menu
a job I didn’t apply for
but became mine
in between making coffee,
milkshakes and lettuce and tomato salads,
anxious for tips that filled
the glasses kept beneath
the formica counter,
understanding, even then,
that money grew not on trees,
but through our labor
typing the menu
drying silverware
stringing string beans
refilling granulated sugar jars
washing the coffee urn on tip toes
sweeping
mopping
Bah Bah inventorying and planning
the next day’s supplies
vegetable oil
flour
50 pound sacks of long grain rice
Flank steak, pork butt,
Jello.

The Great China,
our second home,
sandwiched between
regular school and Chinese school,
our days of wonder,
questions,
fatigue,
anticipation and
simmering American dreams.

driving through :: mark vinz

This could be the town you’re from,
marked only by what it’s near.
The gas station man speaks of weather
and the high school football team
just as you knew he would—
kind to strangers, happy to live here.

Tell yourself it doesn’t matter now,
you’re only driving through.
Past the sagging, empty porches
locked up tight to travelers’ stares,
toward the great dark of the fields,
your headlights startle a flock of
old love letters—still undelivered,
enroute for years.

‘daddy mend it’ :: andrew waterman

Summer sealed the garden as you played,
gentle with petals, smiled at the black cat
lapping milk you poured. Green habitat
intact against whatever edge of shade.

One fallen leaf on the lawn’s grass. You ran
and tried to put it back on its low bough;
then said ‘Daddy mend it’, knowing how
I’ve fixed a light, your broken top, toy van,

and gave me it trusting that yet again
I’d make all right. And found that wasn’t true,
there is no trick of screwdriver or glue
for growing things; but how could I explain?

Or now. Since mad October’s massive fall
whirling you over salt estranging sea.
Hail-scourged in dark yearns the stripped weeping tree
precarious greenness hints, and can’t forestall.

pity the beautiful :: dana gioia

Pity the beautiful,
the dolls, and the dishes,
the babes with big daddies
granting their wishes.

Pity the pretty boys,
the hunks, and Apollos,
the golden lads whom
success always follows.

The hotties, the knock-outs,
the tens out of ten,
the drop-dead gorgeous,
the great leading men.

Pity the faded,
the bloated, the blowsy,
the paunchy Adonis
whose luck’s gone lousy.

Pity the gods,
no longer divine.
Pity the night
the stars lose their shine.

at the choral concert :: tim nolan

The high school kids are so beautiful
in their lavender blouses and crisp white shirts.

They open their mouths to sing with that
far-off stare they had looking out from the crib.

Their voices lift up from the marble bed
of the high altar to the blue endless ceiling

of heaven as depicted in the cloudy dome—
and we—as the parents—crane our necks

to see our children and what is above us—
and ahead of us—until the end when we

are invited up to sing with them—sopranos
and altos—tenors and basses—to sing the great

Hallelujah Chorus—and I’m standing with the other
stunned and gray fathers—holding our sheet music—

searching for our parts—and we realize—
our voices are surprisingly rich—experienced—

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth—
and how do we all know to come in

at exactly the right moment?—Forever and ever
and how can it not seem that we shall reign

forever and ever—in one voice with our beautiful
children—looking out into all those lights.