Cathy Park Hong
A Wreath of Hummingbirds

I suffer a different kind of loneliness.

From the antique ringtones of singing

wrens, crying babies, and ballad medleys,

my ears have turned

to brass.


They resurrect a thousand extinct birds,

Emus, dodos, and shelducks, though some,

like the cerulean glaucous macaw,

could not survive the snow. How heavily

they roost on trees in raw twilight.


I will not admire those birds,

not when my dull head throbs, I am plagued

by sorrow, a green hummingbird eats me alive

with its stinging needle beak.


Then I meet you. Our courtship is fierce

in a prudish city that scorns our love,

as if the ancient laws of miscegenation

are still in place. I am afraid

I will infect you


after a virus clogs the gift economy:

booming etrade of flintlock guns sag.

Status updates flip from we are all

connected to we are exiles.

What bullshit


when in that same prudish city,

they have one exact word to describe the shades

of their sorrow, when they always sit together

and eat noodles during white days

of rain, in one long table,

though not all.


As a boy, my father used to trap

little brown sparrows, bury them in hot coal,

and slowly eat the charred birds alone

in the green fields, no sounds,

no brothers in sight.


Holiest are those who eat alone.

Do not hurt them, do not push them, insult them,

do not even stare at them, leave

them to eat alone, in peace.

Found In Volume 40, No. 06
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  • Cathy Park Hong
Cathy Park Hong
About the Author

Cathy Park Hong’s first book, Translating Mo’um was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press. Her second collection,Dance Dance Revolution, was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize and was published in 2007 by WW Norton.