Two Poems by Johnson Cheu

Along the River of Life by Bette Ridgeway

Tiny Circles

To Chinese, ducks are good luck; two will mate for life.
At General Motors’s man-made pond, I fed the ducks

while Dad worked Sundays. His office, ordinary:
a desk, paper, pencils, phone, family photos.

GM’s tech buildings alternated red brick, blue brick,
American color scheme, American company.

At home, Dad, like GM’s buildings, stood stoic, silent.
New immigrant, he never spoke of the jealous colleague

who splattered coffee on him whenever they passed
in the hall. Instead, he bought us tickets to Annie,

cleaved chickens for chicken soup, flagged
down the ice cream truck on weekends.

When feeding ducks, feed the pair swimming together.
The tiny circles ripple through the water, enlarging.

Mall Villanelle

Even strolling in groups, the tech-tethered teens operate alone,
Unaware former retail giants Sears and K-mart may shutter.
Everyone constantly on their phone.

Black Friday, mall traffic, a slow, yet steady flow.
Online retail has left shoppers’ bags uncluttered.
Even strolling in groups, the tech-tethered teens operate alone.

Vacant storefronts resemble abandoned homes,
Boarded-up windows, walls stripped of color.
Everyone constantly on their phone.

Absent are grandparents watching over grandkids in the Fun Zone.
Lines to see Santa non-existent; the elves putter.
Even strolling in groups, the tech-tethered teens operate alone.

Most patrons sport earbuds or headphones,
Wrapped up in work or family, incessant mutter.
Everyone constantly on their phone.

Omnipresent Security signals our sense of safety has been blown.
Shoppers’ seasonal spirit, lackluster.
Even strolling in groups, the tech-tethered teens operate alone.
Everyone constantly on their phone.


Johnson Cheu’s work has most recently appeared in Rattle, 3Elements Review, and Verse Daily, and more is forthcoming in Vallum. He is also the editor of three scholarly film anthologies: Diversity in Disney Films, and collections on the films of Tim Burton and Robin Williams.

During a four-decade career, Bette Ridgeway has exhibited her work with over eighty museums, universities and galleries, including the Palais Royale in Paris and the Embassy of Madagascar. Awards include Top 60 Contemporary Masters, the Leonardo DaVinci Prize, and the Oxford University Alumni Prize at the Chianciano Art Museum, in Tuscany. Ridgeway’s permanent public placements include The Mayo Clinic and the Federal Reserve Bank, along with numerous private collections. Many books and publications have featured her work, among them International Contemporary Masters and 100 Famous Contemporary Artists. Ridgeway has also authored several books about her art and process.