Two Poems

Maw Shein Win



Are you in the room with me now?

My therapist asked why I never cry.
I ask myself the same, closing my eyes.
A small sty in my vision.

As hard as I tried not to cry,
I was shy as a child. As I crossed the street
with mother, I hid behind her lab coat.

My throat taut and tight.
I thought I might cry.
The other night I lost my sight.

I could hear a couple on the crosswalk.
A man doing a handstand.
Two thieves making plans.

Perhaps a chance to dance
in another place. I could cross the state
line. Cry at the sight of a shimmering lake.

My therapist asked:
What are you thinking?
How does that make you feel?
Where did that come from
and are you in the room with me now?

In Rio, there is a majestic cross on a cliff.
People live in pink paper shacks below.
I danced and I drank there.
I thought I might die there.
I crossed myself although I didn’t believe.

You sweat silver tears.
You see through pink paper walls.
You think your body might be crying now.






The steps that lead to the front door are flecked with silver dust
and shimmer when the sun is low in the sky.

When the toilet flushes, it echoes four times.
Mismatched mattresses, Egyptian King frame.
A broken oven with a working stove.

The piles of paper, the piles of clothes, the piles of files.
Objects collected over years and years.
The slippers from Ikea so the guests won’t scuff the floor.
The houseplants that manage to live with little water.
The dust bunnies, the hairballs, the silk underwear.
The bent spoons, the dented pillows, the dental floss.
The boxes in the garage filled with old pictures, letters, and record albums
from the 70s.
Wrapped candies, Moroccan mask, tea bags, plane tickets, hospital bills.

In the office closet, the ceiling is moldy, dark spots expanding,
too high to reach without a ladder.
The paint on the balcony wall peels off in shapes of rabbits and deer.
A cigarette butt floating in a yellow flowerpot.

The neighbor crosses the street.
Why the filled recycled bins, why the flow of strangers leaving with office chairs
and toaster ovens.
Why the missing husband, the dent in the car, why the real estate agents in
their well-fitted suits.
Why the cracked driveway, why the overgrown juniper.

One fall, an old friend announced upon walking in the living room for the first time.
I agree the view is fantastic, but you’re not supposed to live here.

The hallway is a long corridor that leads to the front door.
The doorknob is diamond-shaped and needs to be jiggled and turned to the left
to be opened.


Maw Shein Win is a Burmese-American poet, editor, and educator who lives and works in the Bay Area. Her writing has appeared in various journals including Cimarron Review, Ping-Pong, Eleven Eleven, and most recently, the anthology Cross-Strokes: Poetry Between Los Angeles and San Francisco (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions). She is a poetry editor for Rivet and was an Artist In Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Her collaborative book with paintings by Mark Dutcher, Ruins of a glittering palace, was published by SPA/Commonwealth Projects. Along with composer Amanda Chaudhary, she is part of musical duo Pitta of the Mind which combines poetry with abstract electronic music. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.