Melody Chen


Stepped afoot a plane for the first time,

Lost count of the number of miles it took

To reach the land that seemed so much nearer on the map.

Had a daughter whose birth rooted a lineage in foreign soil.


Packed an entire culture into her suitcase,

Lugged it across the ocean,

Only to have it opened by a daughter who lost her way

In a myriad of alien traditions and customs

That tangled like Christmas lights.

Wondered how she would teach her daughter

Tens of thousands of characters,

When her school teachers had told her everything could be expressed

With twenty six letters.

Gifted her daughter an intricate name worth an essay, and watched it be abandoned

For one that was lighter on the Western tongue.


Mined iron to construct her daughter’s bones,

Her own arms only strong after having to lift up an entire family.


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Nannie’s Roses



Nannie would do it here, I think.


And probably right here.


This one could use it too.


With new clippers in hand I trimmed spent flower stems from sad looking rose bushes in the backyard. These were nothing like the ones my grandmother used to grow. When I was a child Nannie had dozens of healthy rose bushes vibrantly blooming in the yard around her farmhouse. I don’t think she had purchased a single one of them.

Some may have been given to her by friends, but most she had rooted herself. Usually people admire the gift of a flower arrangement for days until the flowers fade and are thrown away. Not Nannie. Almost upon arrival, flower arrangements of any kind and especially those containing roses were dismantled, clipped, stripped, dipped in rooting powder and plugged into her rooting bed. Some months later and voila! One more…

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