What I Regret
Every summer we spent a week at the lake.
You and your cousins caught turtles and minnows
before dinner and they squatted enraptured
over the creatures you’d found.
They stroked the turtles’ backs,
picked them up when they wandered too far.
When they stuck their whole hands in the bucket,
giggling as the fish flurried through their fingers,
you turned to me and said quietly:
maybe we should set them free.
On movie nights you held a bag of M & Ms
open on your lap and waited
as your cousins took forever to get settled.
They bickered about which pillow they needed,
what spot on the couch they’d claimed,
who had a bigger scoop of ice cream in their bowl,
how it wasn’t fair and could they have more?
You never asked for more of anything.
Not even when your life depended on it.
I should have filled your arms with a blooming
bushel of your favorite candy,
found you a spot close to me on the couch
and asked you what movie made you the happiest.
I should have summoned a thousand turtles
just so you could let them go.
That last Christmas of your life all I gave you
was an Amazon gift card.
I should have asked: what do you dream of holding?
Before it’s too late, tell me what your heart wants.
Hallmark Cards for the Rest of Us
There is a small fortune to be made by stores that
would dare carry Mother’s Day cards for the rest of us,
girls who stand every May bewildered in drugstores
before rows of bucolic scenes declaring in cursive
some version of my mother is my best friend.
After picking up, putting back dozens of cards,
heat spreads across our cheeks and we walk out empty-handed,
members of an unnamed tribe passing each other unseen
in cars and across grocery aisles, trying to raise our children
differently or deciding against motherhood altogether.
Picture a hundred Little Red Riding Hoods standing
in a forest, peering up at a blood moon, baskets full
of disguises and sharpened sets of teeth.
Graffiti on our cloaks reads: my mother
has always been the wolf.
A pop-up card open to the moment she bled you
into the world, umbilical cord between her womb
and your gut, already a clogged phone line.
Hidden behind the others, a tiny white card
that doesn’t open depicts a version of us
who can forgive them. A choir of blank faces
holding unwritten hymnals, bright coins in our throats
like offerings, waiting for someone to pull them out
and toss them into the river, their collective clinking
against one another, the signal we have been longing for.
Joan Kwon Glass, author of How to Make Pancakes For a Dead Boy (Harbor Editions, 2022,) was a finalist for the 2021 Subnivean Award, a finalist for the 2021 Lumiere Review Writing Contest & serves as Poet Laureate (2021-2025) for the city of Milford, CT. She is a biracial Korean American who holds a B.A. & M.A.T. from Smith College, is Poetry Co-Editor for West Trestle Review & Poetry Reader for Rogue Agent. Her poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in Kissing Dynamite, trampset, Rust & Moth, Rattle, Mom Egg, SWWIM, Honey Literary, Lumiere Review, Lantern Review, Literary Mama, Barnstorm & others. Since 2018, Joan has been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. She tweets @joanpglass & you may read her previously published work at www.joankwonglass.com