ON THE ETYMOLOGY OF BIRDS IN A SEASON OF AUSTERITY
Old English Dictionary tweets me in June,
not a bird-chirp, yet –
“Aviation derives from avis, which means bird in Latin.”
This age of birds in a year of austerity laws –
starlings of insolvency out of the aviary cage, arriving
for slashed pensions, hiring freezes, taxes
while the OED filters more words into our booming lexicons:
index of listicle, octocopter, in silico, cray
Z IS FOR ZAMI IN A WINTER GARDEN OF WOMEN
In a girlhood winter, I once wrote –
nothing dies and nothing grows anew.
Not the weeping podocarpus conifer
or the lady palm.
Not the green kentia nor Indian laurel.
Neither one whose common name
for Zamioculcus Zamiifolia.
In the arcades, a snowy courtyard
of posh black granite winter garden –
a stranger asks, did you snap a photo?
I ask – of what?
Next, I see constables, nine or so in the bank
and a thief
on the run.
Sun-dried leaves of Camellia sinensis
are not sage-colored tones of cash –
rather, white tea
the hue of missing dollars
earned by strong-fingered
migrant Asian women
AND SAY IF PERSEPHONE, A MILLENNIAL ALTER EGO
Attends a glassy
in southern California,
utters the street-lingo Hellenisms
of San Fernando Valley
as well as proper ancient Greek,
knows enough to say no to Hades at the mall,
nonplussed by others of his offending ilk.
Persephone testifies –
In this Anglophone tongue, I learned a phrase
for a cold, late spring:
Hades invited me to hike an arroyo trail up north.
At the top, Hades promised,
there’s a waterfall.
No. I saw my future
as a syphilitic grave
of riddled bones –
torn pomegranate of twelve pips,
one for each month.
I thought of another Persephone
gasping for light in the Hadean
underworld’s early geologic violence.
So I dialed
the missing persons hotline
to say no to a year
of blackberry winter
in Los Angeles.
I whispered, I think we have your man.
Blackberry winter –
a cold snap while blackberries
bloom. Yes, despite the drought,
my dear Angelenos,
you shall enjoy
your sempiternal spring.
KAREN AN-HWEI LEE is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel, Sonata in K (Ellipsis 2017). Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci Press 2014). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in literary journals such as The American Poet, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery, Journal of Feminist Studies & Religion, Iowa Review, and Columbia Poetry Review and was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award. She earned an M.F.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle. Currently, she lives in San Diego and serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.