the space between

between the question


the answer

there is a space

whether it is
the blink
of an eye



this is the place
where we all

every birth
is a question

every death
is an answer

and life
is the state of
joyous uncertainty
that hovers
in the air
between every breath
of our universe

Note: I normally love using standard capitalisation, but somehow it didn’t feel right to have a hierarchy of typographical importance for this poem.

Ever since I was introduced to the idea of liminality (essentially, a state of in-betweenness) in grad school, I have loved it. It’s a beautiful word for a beautiful idea – not to mention that it made me feel rather clever to understand what people were talking about.

The idea for this poem came from an initial set of three lines that came to me while writing a journal entry: ‘Between the question / and the answer / is a liminal space’.

But when I sat down to actually flesh this out into a poem, it felt somehow pretentious to use this word. Leaving that emptiness unlabelled felt better for the poem, and more authentic to the universality of this experience.

As someone who loves words, I always like finding the particular, perfect descriptor. But it also fascinates me both within poets and lyrics how sometimes taking out that word can open even more profound possibilities.

Photo by Nick Grappone on Unsplash

I finally know whether to buy light or dark soy sauce

Growing up, I had no idea there was more than one kind of soy sauce. It simply wasn’t part of my world.

As an adult, I started to notice the ‘dark’ and ‘light’ soy sauce designations. I never knew which one to pick, so I would just grab one and work with that. (And I would always have forgotten to look it up by the time I had gotten home.)

Well, this week I actually googled it, and learned some really interesting stuff!

The reason my stir-frys took on a musty colour? I was using dark soy sauce when I should have been using light.

And dark soy sauce? Well, it’s clear there’s a whole wealth of culinary possibility with stew-like dishes.

I know I’m only scratching the surface of this amazingly complex foodstuff. And it does feel embarrassing not to have learned about this until now, but I’m sure I’m not the only one with this critical knowledge gap. (Honestly, it feels a bit eye opening about the subtle ways in which Asian culture is overlooked in the US and UK.)

I recently signed up for an online Japanese cooking course, so hopefully our kitchen will be branching out into some new flavours. (And thank goodness I got a bit of soy sauce 101 before then!)

Photo by GoodEats YQR on Unsplash


For Anita

For the little girl
For whom flowers
Were not enough

Unless they could
Breathe fire and
Nip your fingers

I treasure her
Fierce imagination,
Her gentle heart

And her eye for
Beauty that sees
Beyond surfaces

Note: I got an email that the Mother’s Day flowers might not have arrived, so I made these instead. Love you, Mama.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash


For Mother’s Day

Fused, viscerally
Blood and bone
Bodies knitted
Together, whole

Then – over time
A gradual shifting
So small, so slow
It happens invisibly

And yet somehow
Further and further
We drift apart
The world remaking

Painless on the surface
Yet violent beneath
Pressure builds
Rivers of magma flow
Propelling the future
Cracking and colliding

Until an ocean stands

Between our bodies

It’s natural, necessary –
How the world works
Forging mountains
Carving valleys

You only have to love
A child to understand
Plate tectonics as
Magnificent cruelty

Once close, now distant
Yet always bearing
The outline of where
We once were one

Note: The image of this poem came to me so clearly, but coming up with a title was a real bear. At first I played around with ‘Drifting’, forgetting I had already written a poem with the same title. Right now, I’m calling it ‘Divergence’, but I don’t feel this really connects with the warm, tender place it was written from. Hopefully I can come up with something that feels like it fits a bit better in the future.

Photo by Rainer Krienke on Unsplash

Gratitude is enough

Yesterday, I cooked a double batch of pasta sauce and took it to a local friend who has just welcomed a baby.

It was such a joy to help out in this tangible sort of way – and it was interesting getting to be on the giving side, since for the past few years I was so much more often on the receiving side.

During pregnancy, after childbirth, and then during cancer treatment, there were so many times when people came through for me, showing unbelievable kindness in ways large and small.

I was endlessly grateful for this, but there was also a part of me that felt guilty. Because I was aware that things aren’t equal – that people were doing more for me than I could do for them in return.

But as I set the dinner on the doorstep and walked away, I realised: gratitude is enough.

Sometimes we have a feeling that we shouldn’t accept any favours that we wouldn’t be able to repay to others. And it’s true that reciprocity is at the foundation of human relationships.

But reciprocity doesn’t have to mean doing the same thing. It can just mean offering something else in return – and gratitude is a precious offering all its own.

During my lowest moments, I would sit and weep, thinking about the burden I was placing on others and asking myself ‘how am I ever going to repay this’, knowing it would be impossible.

Generosity becomes an act so much bigger than us. It feels like it flows through the universe like an invisible force. I wasn’t able to do nice things specifically for the people who helped me, certainly not to the degree that they offered support. It’s not that obvious or direct a system of exchange. But I am now in a position to be able to pay it forward.

I know that the mum I did this small act of kindness for will in turn find a way to pay it forward to someone else.

And even if she doesn’t, that’s okay.

Because in the act of giving, and expressing appreciation, the cycle is complete.

It makes me sad to think of how many times I short-circuited this process. Because guilt gets in the way of gratitude. When we are measuring up, comparing contributions, or worrying about what we will need to do in the future, it creates a strange kind of debt that might not exist otherwise.

Because we can’t be thankful in a way that gives giving a conclusion, it feels like it remains open and hanging, both for the giver and the receiver. The receiver is too lost in their anxiety to connect with real thankfulness. And the giver can wind up absorbing some of this anxiety, feeling like maybe there is an unpaid debt, or even feeling bad that they triggered this cycle in the person they were trying to help.

It’s hard to be gracious when we are feeling vulnerable. When we most need help can be the trickiest time to accept it with warmth and happiness.

It has been so empowering to feel self-sufficient in a way that was not available to me during my treatment. But I know that times will come again when I need to lean on others more than I do now.

I hope when that time comes, I can remember what a gift it feels like to receive someone else’s gratitude, or simply to know that one’s own small action is making the world a better place.

Photo by Oktavisual Project on Unsplash


The path forks
I retreat
Into the vacuum
Of my whirring mind
Determined to polish my decision
To a high sheen of certainty
To imagine a future
So controlled
I can see my own face
Reflected in its surface

But the faster I spin
The more lost I become
In a black hole
Of my own creation
My core feels empty, expanding
(Was that once a bellybutton?)
To a fathomless void
Ready to swallow me whole
Then I remember
There is another choice

Instead of looking within
For answers
I turn my gaze outwards
For adventures
The risk of the unknown
Is somehow less terrifying
Than being alone
In my own sterile consciousness
The best decisions are experiments
In the laboratory of life

Note: This poem was inspired by a moment in a counselling session – where my counsellor observed I was withdrawing into a vacuum. This is a familiar, if unhelpful pattern. But by connecting, and trying to make decisions by doing rather than preempting, a whole new world of possibilities opens. I figured I could probably articulate the feeling better in a poem than in a blog post, but it’s nice to be able to remember its genesis.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


For Zachary

Ten years
Named for tin
Because after that all time
It is strong and durable, so they say

But I find myself thinking of tinkers
With hammers and shears
Perhaps marriage is
That too

There is beauty in the dented, mended watering can
That can still hold water, that can still nourish life

Note: I wrote this poem on 20 January when the idea was fresh – for once not leaving my anniversary present until the last moment!

I hadn’t planned the structure of this before I started writing, but the lines seemed to grow in a beautiful crescendo in the first stanza. I wanted this mirrored, paired, equal in the second.

Likewise with the last two lines – I wanted them coupled, to match.

The effectiveness of this will depend on typography, but they line up pretty well from this view.

Somehow, the idea of having ten lines also felt right.

There is so much more I could say, but the love lurks between the lines.

Photo by Steve Mushero on Unsplash

The bird’s nest

For Holocaust Memorial Day

As a necessary
To brutality

A wind blows
The draughty

For piled bodies
On the cusp of

Except memories
Just walls now

People lived here
Human souls


And yet
In the rafters

A bird’s nest

Photo by Serafima Lazarenko on Unsplash

Note: Many years ago, I visited Auschwitz with Zach while he was living in Poland. The image of this bird’s nest has stayed with me ever since. I can’t remember now if I took a picture – or if this felt inappropriate in this strange place – but I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye.


Beware the ones who say
I’ve read that
To every book you mention
Who always have a counterexample 
Or a riposte, who are never caught
Without a ready answer
And exist in a state of impermeable poise

Beware the ones who file away
Knowledge like munitions
Trapped in an intellectual arms race
Who consume to increase their power
Rather than to appreciate their ignorance
And cannot understand anything
That cannot be put into words

Beware the ones who read
To tick boxes on a list
Who aim to dominate with language
Rather than to have their hearts
Rent open and repaired again
Or to savour the simple pleasure
Of escaping into another’s mind

Note: I have met many of these people. It’s easy to feel intimidated by encyclopaedic knowledge, but now to me it mostly looks sad.

But this poem was written with equal intent as a warning to myself. Because I have also been that person.

Reading is not the same as understanding. And understanding is not the same as empathising. I just need a little reminder from time to time.

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash