Under the cover of night, Icarus,
careful not to wake his captors from sleep,
flees from the prison built by his father’s
master. He does not look back. He does not
stop. Just as Icarus arrives at the border
of the sky, more North than he’s ever thought
possible, Master’s son, with blazing rage,
strikes the wings from Icarus’ shoulders with a whip,
a tendril of flame hungry for dark meat.
Icarus plummets into the river and drowns.
The river carries him and spits him out
someplace colder, some unfamiliar South,
where he’ll tread forever in an ocean
always bloated blue with bodies of kin.
Copyright © 2019 Jonathan Teklit. This poem originally appeared on poets.org as part of the 2019 University and College Poetry Prizes. Used with permission of the author.
The world’s largest Confederate monument
was too big to perceive on my earliest trips to the park.
Unlike my parents, I was not an immigrant
but learned, in speech and writing, to represent.
Picnicking at the foot and sometimes peak
of the world’s largest Confederate monument,
we raised our Cokes to the first Georgian president.
His daughter was nine like me, but Jimmy Carter,
unlike my father, was not an immigrant.
Teachers and tour guides stressed the achievement
of turning three vertical granite acres into art.
Since no one called it a Confederate monument,
it remained invisible, like outdated wallpaper meant
long ago to be stripped. Nothing at Stone Mountain Park
echoed my ancestry, but it’s normal for immigrants
not to see themselves in landmarks. On summer nights,
fireworks and laser shows obscured, with sparks,
the world’s largest Confederate monument.
Our story began when my parents arrived as immigrants.
Copyright © 2019 by Adrienne Su. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
A crate of peaches straight from the farm
has to be maintained, or eaten in days.
Obvious, but in my family, they went so fast,
I never saw the mess that punishes delay.
I thought everyone bought fruit by the crate,
stored it in the coolest part of the house,
then devoured it before any could rot.
I’m from the Peach State, and to those
who ask But where are you from originally,
I’d like to reply The homeland of the peach,
but I’m too nice, and they might not look it up.
In truth, the reason we bought so much
did have to do with being Chinese—at least
Chinese in that part of America, both strangers
and natives on a lonely, beautiful street
where food came in stackable containers
and fussy bags, unless you bothered to drive
to the source, where the same money landed
a bushel of fruit, a twenty-pound sack of rice.
You had to drive anyway, each house surrounded
by land enough to grow your own, if lawns
hadn’t been required. At home I loved to stare
into the extra freezer, reviewing mountains
of foil-wrapped meats, cakes, juice concentrate,
mysterious packets brought by house guests
from New York Chinatown, to be transformed
by heat, force, and my mother’s patient effort,
enough to keep us fed through flood or storm,
provided the power stayed on, or fire and ice
could be procured, which would be labor-intensive,
but so was everything else my parents did.
Their lives were labor, they kept this from the kids,
who grew up to confuse work with pleasure,
to become typical immigrants’ children,
taller than their parents and unaware of hunger
except when asked the odd, perplexing question.
Copyright © 2015 by Adrienne Su. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 23, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Words can’t do
what bird bones
to the stony
small soul, the spent
sacrifice boiled down
to the hard white
matter that nourishes
predator, who flourishes
on the slaughtered
animal and water.
another is like bones
to him who eats
(I say “him” only
because it is a man
in my house
who eats and a woman
who goes about
the matter of sustenance),
food being always
a matter of life and
death and each day’s
another small dying.
in hot iron
with grated ginger,
and a little oil
of sesame, served
jasmine rice, cures
of long, fluorescent
in the city
I am afraid
I can’t always be
here when you need
a warm body
or words; someday
into the red clay
I started with
who you are,
for now, here’s
my offering: baked red
fish, clear soup, bread.
From Middle Kingdom (Alice James Books, 1997). Copyright © 1997 by Adrienne Su. Used with the permission of Alice James Books.