Saturday, 03 December 2022

American Life in Poetry: Oolong

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Some­times a poem achieves its beau­ty by a cer­tain fix­a­tion on a small detail that is not bur­dened with the need to be ​“impor­tant.”

Here, in ​“Oolong,” Adri­enne Su cre­ates her own tea rit­u­al, a med­i­ta­tive moment to reflect on the ordi­nary, the quo­tid­i­an.

Tea and the drink­ing of tea, treat­ed to such care­ful study, become a way to think of life as it moves from strong to weak and back again.

Oolong
By Adrienne Su

From strong to weak, a single cup
can carry me from waking up
to the mild hush of the bedtime snack.
Fresh hot water brings it back
from depletion, or threat of such.

What ancient genius gained so much
from roasting pieces of a shrub?
I watch it change, as daylight flags,
from strong to weak,

ending with the faded touch
of flavor that was once robust.
faintness helps the mind relax,
but part of me remains perplexed
that every day unfurls as it must,
from strong to weak.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Adrienne Su, “Oolong” from Peach State, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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