Two Poems

Coiling Lines

for Gary

it would be easier 
to travel outside the lines 

or cut directly
through the field

to cheat time instead 
of letting attention unfold 

at its own pace, at times 

the switchbacks resemble 
a forking maze, the way 

some paths can lead to nowhere— 
these trails weren’t drawn

to be traveled side by side
but we walk them anyways

bumping into bands 
of tourists, gangs of families 

stuck fast in the web, their bodies 
the same as serpentine turns 

put there to halt the mind 
that wants to think, I am doing this 

right, walking deeper into 
what was designed to reorient 

the perceptions, raise regard, 
to awaken back to heart center

yellow chainlink

my son threw himself down 
on hot sand despite his fear 

of rattlesnakes & scorpions 
crawling the desert floor at twilight, 

pulled himself through the hole 
in the fence, a narrow half

foot opening to move past
its material, once safe and

on the other side, he crossed
through more barriers to venture 

closer to the center of his attention
I had described the piece 

to him with unremarkable 
language as “a fence outside”

to manage his expectations 
of art and tune the focus 

towards the presence of fences 
around us at border crossings, 

what these walls say about policies 
on immigration, who gets to

to come over and why, and later 
when we are waved through 

a border checkpoint w/out 
being stopped, I remind myself

the child of immigrants 
of what it means to have 

papers and be documented

Shin Yu Pai is Seattle’s Civic Poet. She is the author of Virga and ENSŌ. Shin Yu is creator and host of Ten Thousand Things, a podcast on Asian American stories for KUOW/NPR.