top of page



Shelley Wong


-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
      like bougainvillea.
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. 

To Yellow

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.

bottom of page