Three Poems by Nancy Lynée Woo
"Sweet Spot," "I'm In," and "Year of the Dragon"
Let’s meet somewhere outside time and space,
where we play CodeNames with our best friends
every Sunday, and everyone gets a chance to be Codemaster.
Where penguins have plenty of ice for sledding.
Where I don’t cry every day. Where the toilet seat
is always down. Where the loneliness
has an expiration date. Where the medication
actually works, and everyone’s special talents
are recognized. Meet me between hammocks
in Yosemite, where harps fly, and my backpack
is light as air. I grow tired of fear and anger.
I need the Buddha singing me to sleep.
Take me to a place of late-night milkshakes
and early-morning lullabies, where aging
isn’t so cruel. Where war has been outlawed.
Where I can read a whole book in 59 minutes.
Where goddesses strut down the street
with cockatiels for friends, and somehow
everything makes sense. Let’s find the sweet spot
of challenge and rest, where dinner cooks itself,
where kids are free to roam in community again,
and the world isn’t always ending, the world
isn’t always ending, the world isn’t always ending.
After Diane Seuss
I’m in a lifeboat
I’m cashing out
I’m no longer buying in
I’m in a wastebasket
I’m bouncing back
I’m turning the knob
We’re standing still
We’re still here
Here is where the thoughts dwell
Here is where the heart swells
Here is the smell of fall in a pumpkin spice candle
Here is a squash in slow expansion
Here are seeds
I’m at the garden
I’m at home
I never left
Here’s my body dancing
It’s a slow dance
It’s a tune you know
A song unsung
It’s flying away now—
Now it’s a seagull
Overlooking a boat
You’re in it
Tag you’re it
It looks like the sea
A long vowel
A long life
A lover opening the door
I’m walking through it
Year of the Dragon
I float in one of the dragon’s eyes
on an endless black sea.
The other eye is bright white.
I meet my ancestors
in the dark passage, buoyed
by the salt of time.
I am a descendant of Gengis Khan.
What happens if we lose
the stories of how we came to be?
Who carries that history?
I jump out of the calm, still sea
into a marsh. Now I am a sandcrab,
scuttling in the soft surf.
Now I am the child chasing them
with a bucket. Now surfing.
A glitch in the machine. I see
that I am each looking-eye,
the right eye, looking forward,
the left eye, back. I put the dragon
in my backpack along with
the water bottle and keys.
He squirms, reminding me
how precious the source is,
how we re-route water
from the Colorado River
to fill swimming pools in the city
of angels. I confess, I love
air conditioning. But how
did I get here? What was the boat
ride like? I swandive into my grandfather’s
memory of 1940 leaving Guangdong,
leaving the orphanage, scrappy,
smart, keeping his ears up.
He holds me with a calm grace,
whispering. I touch my fingers
to the land I’m on, narrowleaf milkweed,
agave, brittlebrush, tidytips—
learning the names of the ancestors
I plant in the soil, how they have grown
here for thousands of years, adapted
to long, dry seasons without rain.
About the poet: Nancy Lynée Woo is a poet, imagination enthusiast, and eco-activist who harbors a wild love for the natural world. Her debut poetry collection is I’d Rather Be Lightning (GASHER Press, 2023). Nancy is a 2023 recipient of the California Creative Corps grant, and was a 2015 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow. She has received additional fellowships from Artists at Work, Arts Council for Long Beach, California Center for the Book, Idyllwild Writers Week and Literary Women. Her work has been published in Tupelo Quarterly, Stirring, Radar Poetry, and others. Nancy is the founder of the community-based poetry workshop Surprise the Line. She believes in the power of the arts to bring people together. Her degrees are in sociology and creative writing from UC Santa Cruz and Antioch University LA. Find her cavorting around Long Beach (Tongva land) in California, and on social media @fancifulnance.