“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Washington, DC” by Pacyinz Lyfoung

Pacyinz Lyfoung

COVID-19 Bittersweet Recipe

Unwrap four bundles of dry vermicelli.
Let their white locks dissolve into hot water
until silvery and translucent
the faint brushing of your mother’s fingers
opening a package of dehydrated shiitake
mushrooms murmuring they should blossom back to life.
Grab a bag of bean sprouts, free them into a pool of water
where their dead green skins float to the surface
and their white mermaid tails fan submarine.
Peel a passel of carrots, wash them and thinly shred them.
Pound one clove of garlic, soft and watery, and dice them into
the footsteps of your father going away or he might start to tear up.
Place two pounds of ground pork in a big bowl.
Pinch in salt and pepper, sprinkle the garlic.
Layer the carrot confetti, the slippery vermicelli,
and the chewy shiitake bits and the bean sprout tails.
Break one egg.
Mix everything.
Set the pile of papery rice in the middle of the table
along steaming ponds glistening with the giggles
of your siblings and even their children
as they dip the wraps and roll tiny fingers, chubby fingers,
the touch of past kab yaub feasts
to be frozen until your solo dining hungers for a taste
of  family.

–March 30, 2020



Pacyinz Lyfoung is a French-born, Minnesota-grown, 1.5 Hmong American woman poet. She hones the power of poetry to 1) reach across social divides and 2) celebrate her family and cultural heritage. She developed her poetry skills at The Loft in Minneapolis; at VONA with Elmaz Abinader, Ruth Forman, and David Mura; at Winter Tangerine; at the GWU Jenny McKean Moore’s Community Poetry Workshop with Sally Wen Mao; and at Split this Rock’s community workshops. In the time of coronavirus 2020, as a single woman far from her family and the Hmong American community in DC, she dwells alone in her English basement apartment, keeping in touch virtually, cooking up Asian American fusion for solo dining and hopefully finishing her first poetry manuscript.