Poetry Sunday: “Quotidian,” by Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong


My newborn coos as I wipe milk
from the folds of his neck.
My husband slides his hammer
into his back pocket
and climbs down the ladder.
I trace the flight path
of a hummingbird into bottlebrush.
Dusk settles like dust after rain.
My son is quiet, but I am restless.

It is dawn in Fallujah:
a soldier lifts a child’s blanket
with the mouth of his machine gun;
a doctor peers out the window,
afraid to leave home;
an elderly woman holds
her daughter’s limp hand
and lies to her about the stillborn;
two men drag a stranger
from the line of fire, his hair a brush
painting blood on the sidewalk.
The day has just begun.

On my street, a car stops
to let a doe and fawn cross.
My husband spills a glass of water.
Libation, perhaps, but enough
to atone for the evening’s serenity?


“Quotidian” was first published in Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing (CV2), then in ravel (NeoPoiesis Press 2015) and is reprinted here with permission of the author.


Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong‘s first book is ravel, a finalist for the Many Voices Project by New Rivers Press and the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, and is available for order here. Her work in theater, poetry, and fiction has garnered a number of Pushcart nominations and a residency at Stanford University. Her journal publications include The California Quarterly, The Columbia Review, Drunken Boat, and Spillway.


Poet’s Note

I wrote “Quotidian” drawing on scenes from my daily life as the parent of a young child in the San Francisco Bay Area, and imagining how my life might be if I lived in Fallujah, Iraq.

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