Staff Poets at OPL

In honor of National Poetry Month, we'd love to share some staff talent. Enjoy these poems written by OPL staff.

(Alphabetical by poet's first name.)

Dancing to a bowl of rice

My dad tells me,
I looked happiest when there is
a bowl of rice in front of me.
Sitting on the creaky, uneven wooden floor,
covered with a soft yet colorful carpet,
the rats and roaches come out to join
 in watching us eat.
In our circle of dinnertime,
we crossed our legs,
eating with our hands,
gnawing on beef bones and chicken feet.
We eat family style.
No one cares what plates we
dipped our licked fingers in
unless its soup.
Same old routine where the parents eat first
especially dad who brings home the donuts.
Sometimes dad would say,
we look as hungry as the wandering ghosts who get none.
Those displaced and those without loved ones
There are times mom tries to do the civilized thing,
a ladle for the soup.
No one’s germs will be dipped in it.
But a bowl of rice is what I dance to.
It goes with everything!
I can have rice with just soy sauce
I didn’t have to compete
with my siblings to get my fill with rice
Meat was scarce, rice is everything

Bird Fish Manuscript was a short I wrote 

Bird Fish (working title) is a story about a Bird Fish who reveals his/her dual identity not only being both a fish and a bird but navigating her/his dual world, loving oneself, having survived the lost of voice or being silenced, and then thriving not alone, but with many others who are not just a bird or a fish or both.

This about a journey of self-discovery and accepting my identity as Khmer American. To survive the Cambodian genocide, people silenced their voices. That was what my parents went through. I had experienced that pain of having my voice silenced as well.

Bird fish came to be when I had a conversation with my inner self. Bird Fish became my guide.

 [Dual Identity]

I am a Bird Fish. I can see it.

I love both air and water. I need both to be me.

I write words when I dance in the water and when I dance in the sky.

I swim with the fishes, and I fly with the birds.


When I dance alone, I am the fish in the sky and the bird in the water.

I dance with the moon (in the sky).

I dance with the sun (in the water).

I watch as the children of Naga (The mythology or roots of the existence of Khmers) blossom for heaven and for earth as they dance robam  tep Apsara (Dance of Apsara Divinities).

I join them.


The lotus flowers bloom, bloom above mud, bloom above water. They rise.

We who sing songs together in the water, and in the sky, like the lotus, we rise.

art and words by Chantra Tham, Asian Branch


They wonder through the streets

dirty, filthy, and alone

desperately searching for food and cash

and even a place called home

Those dirty, filthy, sluggish hags, all dressed up in their rags

with a cardboard sign in their hands

But yet, each empty soul has a story

some are filled with fear and strife

while some have had their glory

So, if you ever become a millionaire, ask yourself
how come?
Because maybe under different circumstances you might have
been a bum

 a poem by Eboni A. Weston, Library Aide, Elmhurst Branch

   The Nap

   It’s only a nap
   he's just taking a nap                                                    

   big deal                                                                                         

   throat tightens

   mad at my imagination again
   for filling up what’s left
   by lonely questions

   what sends him to bed?
   never told the story of his psyche to me
   no tours of the landscape

   he packs up belongings
   bookshelves bare
   robes falling
   into the naked only now

   all those books
   vestiges of past lives
   I used to stare at their spines
   from this sofa 

   and when the boxes get dropped off
   at Many Rivers Books and Tea
   there won't be much left
   to make up
   or see

   I know there’s a man napping
   I know the lazy boy is empty
   no blue cardigan
   no black beanie

a poem by Jenny Rocky Rockwell, Asian Branch


It’s a beautiful piece of crap.
A crappy piece of beautiful.

Locked in this room, can’t move, can’t change.
Can’t grow while growing can’t stop the sun the moon

Legs getting longer
Want this want that
Not enough too much

I’m missing everything
It laughs and cries just outside this door…


Quiet Ancestors

our ancestors are tired of being quiet
washed away by oceans, by gravestones,
by iphones.

what have you given up? they ask.
look what you have given up.

we’re just walking forward.
we can’t afford to be haunted
anymore. our therapists understand.

when we have given up so much for you, they say.

two poems by Sharon McKellar, Main Library

Letter to Mary

I see the first
dead leaf so far
this year sticking
to a parking meter
in front of the
bank & remember
walking by the
trailer park with
you & everything
smelled like rain
falling in the
sewer plant.

So Go

Send back your eyes in rapture
as they would be here
And eat and orange
for me for breakfast

I construct the rest
with what I’ve got
to live without.
It seems so familiar:

the buildings in our
neighborhood, the care
and tenderness, a season
ticket in Section 218;

dark curls across the bed,
the moisture and skin,
its taste and texture
as I’ve dreamed since boyhood.

All but the touch and
real sounds, & time and talk
and tenderness is here
in this other hemisphere.

But oranges, they flourish
with my desire, and lights
won’t kill the ivy climbing
the friendly confines.

You eat the orange;
I’ll watch the game
knowing all that’s possible
better than ever.

Ample Waves

A chill on the porch consists
of a compound of time.

New increments accumulate.
holding on tightly to your hand,
a body of hope.

Compels me.
A image from the archaeology,
the representation of the human form,
timeless grace, love’s continuum.

Tools fashioned from its substance,
a world full to bring us together.

Tools of union from spirit-matter,
glimmering in you out of gorgeous ore.

To engage the rebuilding
and enstructure accord,
where change takes charge
in the calm of fondness,
full of anticipation, as a model
of a better life.

Gentle air here from the water.
Relaxed and close, the chill lets go.

The sensations made actual,
to encumber my imagination
for vaster pursuits.

To arrange an array of tenderness,
ample waves, open space of talk,
touch, concerned for the entirety,
that the parts assemble into.

Sparse passing of pedestrians
goes by unaware of the sudden unfurling.

As we join the wind
that keeps it open.

three poems by Steven Lavoie, Main Library