Pity the Poor Fortune Cookie Writer His Muse
All day at his desk tapping out lines of good
cheer, ten words or less to stave off despair,
before him a widower, wife dead for a month,
that man now among good-hearted neighbors
sharing their Sunday night Chinese take-out.
After the House Lo Mein, the Almond Chicken,
and a Vegetable Roll with enough cabbage
to disturb his slumber for a week, he cracks
open the clam shell of his tasteless cookie
and pulls out his fortune: Life is beautiful,
be happy. Like the man so sick with flu he can’t
believe he will ever be well again, he thinks,
Impossible. And suddenly he is weeping fat
salty tears into the leftover Moo Goo Gai Pan.
His friends, observing his grief, pass him a more
congenial cookie: Even a small gift bringsjoy
to the whole family. His tears run like the Yangtze.
One more cookie crosses over the Chow Mein
congealing in its white cardboard box: A fresh start
will put you on your way. And another: A smile
is your personal welcome mat. In their little
waxed paper bag the crispy fried noodles turn
to ashes as cookies are lobbed like baseballs:
A light heart carries you through the hard times.
How he wishes he could believe: The best path
is always the hardest one, that he could Accept
what cannot be changed. The bite of pineapple
on his tongue, he remembers the last time the two
of them shared Chinese at the Golden Mountain,
weeks before her illness, a platter of Dragon
and Phoenix between them, and Seven Stars
with Moon, the fortune she’d unraveled: True gold
fears no fire, how easy it was then to believe
the golden egg of happiness had fallen into his lap.
A Polemic for Pink
I’ve bowed down before scarlet, worshipped
the green of fresh-minted money, and gravitated
towards black. I’ve lived in the absence of color.
So many times I’ve praised the whiteness of my pet
rat’s fur, the red beads of his eyes, but never
the pink of his tail, naked and squiggly
like a worm and just as pink.
Consider the universality of the tongue,
the spot where we are all equal—and pink.
I’ve been licked by a cat’s pink tongue, rough
as sandpaper, the small engine of his body whirring.
Remember the colors of terror—
red, orange, yellow, blue, and green—colors
that told us how afraid we needed to be.
Not one of them Code Pink.
Why would a rock star call herself Pink if it weren’t
outrageous, her body half naked on a trapeze,
her hair pink as cotton candy?
I like a color that dares to be outrageous, but doesn’t
mind going soft and pink as a watered-down communist,
that eschews the ideological red of marinara
for the creamy compromise of pink sauce.
I’ve loved a girl in a pink tutu, the way she rose up
on pink satin shoes and twirled around and around,
circles of pink spinning out a galaxy.
I’ve tapped my psychedelic foot to the music
of Pink Floyd, opened my heart to the little pink houses
of America, and fallen to temptation in a pink Cadillac.
Imagine spring without pink. No more blossoms
of magnolia dropped like ladies’ hankies on the lawn.
No more borders of snapdragons lined up like pink pacifists.
No more the widow’s consolation of pink gladiolas.
I’ve sunk my teeth into the crisp skin
of a Pink Lady, drenched my own poisonous flesh
in a lotion of utopian pink and let it conciliate the itch.
Don’t call pink a wimp. Think about the power
of a pink slip, strong enough to shatter a life.
The ache of a pink ribbon, worn where a breast used to be.
And Jackie Kennedy in the back of a black
Lincoln Continental, her pink Chanel suit like a drift
of blossoms blown across her husband’s body.