-to Frida Kahlo
Lady, keep the tequila by your lamp
for when you need a knife. Dip
the brush in azul for feathers so
a bird will fly above your bed &
you can wash away the memory of
his sweat, the taste of hothouse
flower women. Your whiteness is
twin: one side a mirror-see what
you are, the other a window, I have
already changed the sky. Girls are
stripping the petals, dusting their
mouths with sugar & smashed
pecans. When you spin in your
white dress, greet the crowd with
your stained mouth. A dove and an
elephant, they murmur, but
you're rewriting the song into a
jungle. Bring out the longest rope
& tie it to him-say I will look at you
until the blood runs out. This is when
shadows start & you will
walk him back to the banquet,
knowing that what is colorless
is not innocent, nor safe.
The Spring Forecast
Soon, the sea. On the city corner,
a tree asserts I am every
shade of pink. Like the inside.
Dresses as transparent
as watercolor. Doors flung open
to receive gold arrows.
(stringing the strings)
Skirts flare into bells. Hair
Once, a stop sign
before the water. Once,
he traced the arch of her foot.
The sea rushes from
the lighthouse. What bloom
says no? Her hand
petaling open. What you
would do for a pied-à-terre
with tall windows and flower boxes.
A head full of leaves.
Too many bows to tie
and what of them? Pluck
the bestsellers. Sandal
ready. A pointed foot,
pointed feet. Come out, come out,
ripest peach, offwhite leader.
On the archipelago, you are
almost new. Don't turn back:
the girls are walking again. They soak
in their many perfumes.
(strings up) Soon, the island.
Your orb falling over the ocean
is a grand clock. You suffer
for that which you should not
be named for: my skin, my people.
You are unfairly suspect-
your fever, your peril-
though you are as chill
as lemonade. You dangle from trees
with the ease of a summer
spent on a porch swing. The ladies
make linen A-line dresses
out of lemon print, basking
in your light though it blinds
and burns them. Dear yellow,
you have never covered
my body. I leave your light
in the dark. At seventeen,
I saw a film where the heartbreaker girl
only wore green so my colors
turned verdant. When you appear
in names of books, I ask, "Why does it
have to be you?" Last spring I bought
a yellow purse and hope that it will
turn heavy with gold. As a woman, I am still
learning about illumination, how
I should never want to fade
into silence and that quiet is strong
and often beautiful. No longer green,
I write you to learn your minor keys.
My tribe is rising. We are the new names,
the ones we have always known.
-from RARE BIRDS, Diode Editions (2017), selected by POW Associate Editor Amie Whittemore
PROMPT: Take inspiration from Wong's "The Spring Forecast" and write your own forecast, filling it with whatever your own spring fever lures to you. As the poem takes shape, look at Wong’s stanza structure as a guide, partnering its waxing and waning motion with a subject you want to explore, one that oscillates, roves, refuses to hold still.
BIO: Shelley Wong is a Kundiman fellow and the author of the chapbook RARE BIRDS (Diode Editions). Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review Online, Sixth Finch, Verse Daily, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.