Shelley Wong

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Shelley Wong

Memorial Day Weekend

On Fire Island: elevated pine houses in case of flooding

              The shoulder season is for lovers
                            It is the first weekend to wear white, eggshell, ecru, pearl
              Leaves of three along the boardwalk call out for libidinal chaos
                            I collect light from every window
A scattered puzzle mixes sky & ocean, sand & stone
              The light alone a majesty
                            To dwell in a maritime forest away from the seductions
              Recording the tide’s hiss, water lapping, a catbird wheezing
                            The ferryman asks where are you from & I answer California & tip well
To be given the sister ocean—the dark Atlantic—where all of our streets once ended
              A temporary expanse, a cold, hypnotic blue
                            Eating bulgogi with kimchi & rice on the deck
To wake at dawn madly scratching, the body an alarm
                            Mosquito girls flying with my spiced blood


Department of the Interior

            with a line by Elizabeth Bishop
                            The tide calls the water
of the body. Fire Island spans 32 miles
                            & is drifting west. A maze
cuts through the salt marsh, bridging bay
                            to ocean. Where I wander
is federal land, not a branched
                            interlude of neon pool parties.
I’m part of the sky paparazzi
                            dazed by its flaring – rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
Stumbling in the sand, I find only
                            the crash of return. I have come to this
barrier island again, in the silence that follows
                            a separation. Tomorrow
there will be three boats
                            at various distances. One jet-ski.
Lightning like a rumor of another realm.
                            I try to divide eleven years, but cannot be held
to exactness. My mind floats out to water
                            & I am living through this world once.


Shelley Wong reads “Memorial Day Weekend”


Shelley Wong reads “Department of the Interior”

Shelley Wong is the author of As She Appears (YesYes Books, May 2022), winner of the 2019 Pamet River Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, and New England Review. She has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from MacDowell, Kundiman, and Vermont Studio Center. She is an affiliate artist at Headlands Center for the Arts and lives in San Francisco.