Joan Kwon Glass

Dear Whitney, On Your 57th Birthday

Ain’t it shocking what love can do?
So Emotional, Whitney Houston

I am driving south at rush hour along New Haven’s Long Wharf,
listening to your song “So Emotional.”   It’s one of my favorites.
Today you would have been 57 years old.

Oil refineries and car engines fill the sky with their smog and filth.
Overheated commuters stare straight ahead.  The bridge beneath us undulates.
A noxious film clings to everything.  Did you have a premonition

that your daughter would die so young and in the same manner as you?
Did you ever wish that you loved her less, so that when your love was not
enough to save her, it wouldn’t be so shocking?

Down by the water, four women hold hands and bow their heads in prayer.
In the 1400s, a group of prisoners was called a pity.
There is no name for a group of women praying.

Lately, in these last weeks of summer, I feel less like dancing in a field
of fireflies, less like gathering them in a glass jar to marvel at their magic,
and more like climbing inside the jar myself, waiting for their lights

to go dark in the night field one last time, so I can stop keeping watch.

Joan Kwon Glass is a biracial Korean American who grew up in Seoul, South Korea and in Michigan.  She now lives near New Haven, CT.   Her poems have recently been published or are upcoming in Rust & Moth, Rattle, SWWIM, Rogue Agent, South Florida Poetry Journal, Persephone’s Daughters, West Trestle Review, Wondrous Real and others. Her poem “Cartouche,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She tweets @joanpglass and you may read her previously published work at

Previous: Leijia Hanrahan / Issue 13 / Next: Sarah Law