Poem of the Week | September 07, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Quid Pro Nil” by Stella Wong!

Stella Wong is a poet with degrees from Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Wong’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Missouri Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, the LA Review of Book and others. She is the author of AMERICAN ZERO, winner of the 2018 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize selected by Danez Smith, and SPOOKS, winner of the 2020 Saturnalia Books Editors Prize.


Quid Pro Nil

The Red House restaurant is a farm-
to table type deal, and while I feel for caged chickens, I really do,
amidst the talk of alma mater basketball teams—

how well the young run on nothing
but thirst, prayer and well-oiled joints
—I’m not feeling it, this low bar
too unpresuming to be anything but a hole

in the wall. Over here, just seating two
in a long line of white-haired patrons
and the patronized, I can’t help

but admire the historic patina of the
irony, it’s got to be four or even five-stars,
that much like a small furred animal, gone
limp with fear and self-preservation

in the maw of a wildcat, my fingers are being held
down by yours. Rabbits
can cause their own hearts to explode and

I have never before wished so hard to be all ears,
but for the wandering forklift that seems to have picked up
on the proximity of my thigh. I feel for ciliced monks,
I really do. Skipping around the subject of men

who make me want to die, we proceed
to global health and health policy:
how to prevent suicide by gun

by making guns illegal; or preventing oven deaths in Britain
by making oven gas nonlethal,
which would have given Hansel and Gretel a hell
of an ending, I’m sure, or preventing farmers from drinking

pesticides by making pesticides
nontoxic, in India, of all places—
I’m not here (that’s how dissociative this fugue)

to incubate your cocksure ego. I mean really, my professor
transmogrified in a public place, and all
I got from it was three fun facts
about how to kill yourself.


Author’s Note

This poem is about the experience of being conscious as a young woman in this moment in history. I use bunnies and fables to mediate other lessons about society’s most vulnerable.