Perennials by Shelley Wong

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The pink blossom trees were everywhere
after she named them—Hong Kong orchids.

In the public garden, they are the first flowers
to open. They bloom like an aria. The rose plots

are just woodchips, slashed stems, and thorns.
We once lived on an island where she could

barely breathe, because Norway maple trees
cast their pollen like ticker tape and we wanted

to keep the cats. What I couldn’t learn from her:
how to tell Mandarin from Cantonese, blend

chilis into perfect fish sauce, and proclaim
how we lived and loved each other. How easy it is

for the tree to find its color. Lies and omissions
diminished me. Still, I lose: I cannot even recall

our common silences. The years have transposed
into any year. It’s my first year in Ohio. She lives

on a foggy peninsula and I hear she’s smoking
again. I see the spring as a closing throat.




Shelley Wong is a Kundiman fellow who lives in Oakland, California. Her poems have appeared or will appear in Vinyl, Devil’s Lake, Ninth Letter Online, The Collagist, and CutBank.