Poem of the Week, by Rosanna Young Oh

Are you interested in a week of twice-daily no-pressure writing together on Zoom? Click here for details on our June 10-16 session of Write Together. I’d love to see you there!

Breakfast at a Kowloon hotel: waiters in black pants, white shirts, red vests. Platters of fruit and dumplings and smoked fish, bowls of congee, you tiao. It was all so beautiful. Then I saw a cockroach crawling around one of the fruit platters. I touched a waiter’s arm and silently nodded at the roach. His eyes widened and he bore the platter away through a door that swung open onto a different world: fiery woks, steam, cooks and busboys racing around shouting.

Did the waiter flick the cockroach off and bring the fruit platter back out? Maybe. Everyone’s trying to survive. There are other worlds within ours, just behind a swinging door, and if you look for them you see them everywhere.

Picking Blueberries, by Rosanna Young Oh

It was a risk my father had taken in midwinter:
ordering 240 pint boxes of blueberries
in less than desirable condition at a discount
so they could be repicked, repacked, and resold.

We stand together before crates of blueberries—
the color of river pebbles in water, some flecked with mold.
I am twenty-nine years old, and yet my father instructs
me as though I were a child again, hiding
between the aisles of lettuces and squash in the store.

“Daughter, look,” he says. He squeezes a blueberry
between his thumb and finger until the skin tears.
I see now: rotten ones bruise to the touch.

We pick in silence. By the second hour,
our fingers stiffen, their nail beds
purple from juice.

Suddenly, my father’s voice emerges as though from a distance:
“You were not meant to live this kind of life.”

But nor was he—a man with a mind made wide by books,
who as a child rose with the sun to read by its light.

We’re left with fewer boxes than we had thought.
How, how to price them? $3.99 per pint.

Click here for more information about Rosanna Young Oh.

My podcast: Words by Winter

One comment

  1. mbarrette15outlookcom · 14 Days Ago

    Dear Alison,
    I just commented on your weekly poem but unfortunately lost it when I could not log in WordPress!! Take 2 !
    This week’s comment and poem touches me as it brings my dad and our past together. As I sit in my Lisbon hotel room, I remember my father the butcher, grocer, salesman having to salvage the goods to sell but also to feed 4 hungry boys. We were not involved in the process but we surely benefited from the exercise. Family, friends and neighbors were unaware as were. For years and even after he passed in 2015, I holded grudges for many of his actions yet never gave him enough credit for what he did to survive so we could not just survive but thrive as we all eventually did. Merci papa 💖 and thank you Alison for your weekly gems, your labor of love which creates these moments where our humanity reminds us that we receive many gifts such as yours so we can I turn be kinder to those we come across. Merci ma belle ami xoxo


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