Wong May


With each day



Coming on streets

You shall never   

      Thank God

Find again

With fewer words

You speak & write

You travel more

Your Muse frets


In a market place

Man squats

Bites off throats of chickens

“Bite & spit”

Back & forth

Spits out misery

In the dust

Birdfeed grits on concrete

Spit & bite & spit

So it goes

Man making a living

Good at it

Like a desk clerk

Is discreet;

Now then the chickens

           Well out of misery

Too are nodding off

                           en masse

No flesh wounds

Little that meets the eye

A bloodbath

It ain’t

& if a heap

Of bodies, some square dozen

      Not all stamped out

Thighs thigh-high

Shall spell “massacre”

On your retina

Move on

“Nothing to see”

Move along


The mess of wings

In the body-warmth dark

A reconfiguration

Of many as one

A mandala

Of syringes

Some half-hearted flutter

Twitches confined to the fringe

      Die down

Willing the drug to work

The man nods

Gives you a nod

Lifting one eyebrow like a chicken

                                        Drawing you

To the matter at hand

Desk job

On whose lap

What must be the most secret book

You will never ever read again

In the penumbra

All the gilt-edged pages rippled

Fell open, shimmering


The man wears a chicken’s expression

A chicken’s stupefaction


If you are not saved by what you see

In the market today

With just the clothes you are seen in

C’mon darkness my old friend

Where in the world

Would you also go


& write & live?

Wong May was born in China and has published four books of poetry in the U.S. Her most recent collection is Picasso’s Tears: Poems, 1978–2013. She recently translated In the Same Light: 200 Tang Poems for Our Century. She lives in Dublin and paints much of the time to get away from words.
Originally published:
December 6, 2022


Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Fady Joudah

The poet on how the war in Gaza changed his work
Aria Aber

You Might Also Like


Zaffar Kunial


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.