Second Place, Self-care

by Pamela Yuen

Each month, it comes like menses—this box
on the doorstep. Wet fondant cardboard
in the rain, or the blanket silhouette of a dead
thing under snow. There are sheet masks
in May, the smell of sheared grass
in equinox. In June, we find cosmos
blooms, dried & pressed like resentment
into bookmarks. But the best is in October:
waxy pumpkin candles, big & heavy
as my mother's fist coming down
on the kitchen table.
They’ve got heft. I write. Five stars. More pumpkins please
to a woman at the warehouse who dreams
of going home. The long drive in the rain.
Her son and his baseball game that afternoon.  
Then Chinese food from the strip mall
on the corner. There’s a hot, heaping plate
of battered chicken balls and red sauce
thicker than blood between sisters,
more glue than their words ever were.
It comes with a cookie meant for breaking.
Knuckle shaped, a fortune tucked inside—
a paper lotus memo in Anjali mudra palms:
Today it’s up to you to create the joy you long for. 
Long & Create being one and the same.
Synonyms cut and pasted on a vision board,
interchangeable fortunes snapped
clean apart from clavicle to clavicle.
You and I—we are takeout chopsticks.
Splintered with only quiet clasped between
us on the wet drive home in December.
Where a damaged cardboard box waits 
on the porch. Bath bombs fizzing plastic
glitter in the snow.  

Judge Anna Yin’s comments:

This poem from the very beginning intrigued me, and I could not help wondering what would happen…what kind of boxes… what kind of self-care? I returned to the poem several times to reread, to trace its haunting source from the subtle voice of the character and items that imply both despair and hope. The line “Long & Create being one and the same” really made me rethink life. Poetry should be story-telling in some sense, and this poem does that in a very interesting and clever way. Well done.


Pamela Yuen was born to Hong Kong migrants in rural Ontario. She is an expressive writing facilitator with the Toronto Writers’ Collective and serves as an executive member of Canadian Authors Association—Toronto Branch. Her spoken word can be heard through Brickyard, an audio/visual hub of Brick Books. You can visit her at @peameala. 

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