Kien Lam
On Kindness

My friend doesn’t eat animal

meat that still looks like the animal.


The animal, dead, cannot come back

to life. At least not without


a miracle in which you can turn

your fingers into god and jigsaw


the pieces back together. With crabs

or lobsters, though, you can skip


the puzzle. I am not going to pull

a façade over anyone. I don’t contain


much empathy for such things,

but I am moved by my friend who does.


She could fit a turtle into her human

shell. And not just a turtle, but a giant beach


of turtle eggs, who could then hatch

and all make it to the ocean. That world


seems a lot kinder and a lot more

beautiful. Everything eats not to live


but for joy. At some point in history,

a single organism existed—call it God


or call it a microorganism—and then

at some point it split, and some point


beyond that one of the splits looked

at the other and wanted to eat them.


These days it’s called love. Or war.

These days I look at something


and it might look back.

Found In Volume 51, No. 04
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Kien Lam
About the Author

Kien Lam is the author of Extinction Theory (UGA Press, 2022 National Poetry Series) and a Kundiman Fellow. He lives in Los Angeles where he writes about professional video game players.