SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JOANNA CHEN

Joanna head shot
I WILL ALWAYS GO BACK
By Joanna Chen

I will always go back to my brother’s voice, not yet fully broken, counting to ten,

the leaves crackling underfoot, the snag of an oak branch on my old red coat

as I search for a place to hide from him. The smell of damp bracken

from late summer showers, a shudder in the warm air, a whirring of bees,

hundreds of them, whose hive my clumsiness has violated, hunting me down,

swarming full throttle from the depths of the glade, catching up with my awkward

sprint, poison throbbing in their little bodies. They capture me swiftly, clinging

ecstatically to my face, invading my nostrils, attacking my ear lobes, covering the

cuffs of my coat with their rage. When I reach the driveway of our house, I stop

batting my childish hands, stop resisting. I just stand there and let them do it

to me. My brother, hearing my animal screams piercing through the glade,

finds me. He fights them off with his beautiful bare hands.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Poet Lore Volume 107, Number 3/4 and appears here today with permission from the poet.)


Joanna Chen is a British-born poet, journalist and translator. She has written extensively for Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Marie Claire and the BBC World Service. Her poetry and poetic translations were most recently published with Poet Lore, The Bakery, and The Moon Magazine, among others.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem pairs pace with alliteration, image with language, and scene with nostalgia to whisk us away to another place and time. Every sense is enlisted so that we are on high alert, in the throes of the events at hand. We are one with the girl, at the mercy of the bees; we, too, know the salvation of a brother and his beautiful bare hands.

Want to read more by and about Joanna Chen?
Joanna Chen’s Official Website
The Ilanot Review
Haaretz
The Bakery

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Contributing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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