• Jan Avellana

Small Joys

I have in my notebook, a living list of small joys. With depression always ooogling at me, and licking it's chops, I thought that keeping a list of joys would be a fine way to give that shadow a giant middle finger. So there's that.

And plus, there's a small bit in a movie called "City of Angels", when the Angel of Death asks a little girl what her favorite thing was about being alive, and she says, "Footed pajamas"--that has always lodged in my brain as weird tidbits often do. If the Angel of Death came for me in that movie, what would my answer have been?

So began my list of small joys, and that begat these--some essays, some poetry--because I'm nothing if not full of words to say about inconsequential things. Funny thing is, I found out that tiny nigglings often hold the most important treasures--I share them here in the hopes that you will find this true too, and maybe start your own list of small joys.

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Home | Here are some poems that are either about home, or feel like home in some way. Sometimes that "home" is a house or a physical place, but more often than not, the word "home" tries to capture the feelings of safety and belonging that can happen anywhere, most profoundly among people that share a kindred spirit. (I included "The Place of Yes" because it seems. right to me that home would be THE place where we hear and say the most yesses.)

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The Place of Yes

this is the place where


come to dance, naked, unashamed,

and there is not a not-yes anywhere.


to the glow of the midnight moon, if this is what you want— tuck into your pockets a thousand sprigs of budding sunlight and at your hem, stitch the golden threads of childhood hours, each glorious minute that ticks by— always forwards, never back.


to the heavens, that infinite blue sea, the folding of dusk to dawn and


to soaking in streams of northern lights— but only if it fills you with incandescent joy, then


most of all yes to you, to the bone and marrow and the dry deeps in you, heaving to be quenched, yes—

to this most of all— and to you.

~ j. avellana hongo

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ebony birds threading the fading horizon— a hem to heaven

weaving a passage for the wanderer, the saint,

the sinner,

i find my way home.

~ j. avellana hongo

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Laughter in the Eaves


is filled with

laughter dripping



the eaves.

it will greet me


wide margins,


endless fields

of tall grasses


on a feather’s breath,

and swaths

of quiet hush

and there are

a thousand

secret places

to be

and alone

but never


and all

the words

i have

ever needed

will be there

in heaven


the eaves


with laughter.

~ j. avellana hongo

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i was a bird

this morning,

i was a bird.

i stood--

long, on the empty sidewalk,

the whispering

glow of

ink turning to milk,

tinged with the palest drop

of cornflower,

dressing me with gauze.

an exhilaration of


scolded me awake--

and my sinew

leapt at the knowing!

they are singing me home--i thought,

they are singing me home.

~ j. avellana hongo

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to sing of hope when there is no hope

translucent petals blush,

a soft breath blows.

blossoms rocking,

as though they are wracked with heaving waves of grief

there is nothing here but ashes,

an outcropping of moss covered ruins wet with rain,

and some scattered wildflowers strewn about by ancient winds.

a wren alights on a long billowy stalk,

resting perhaps,

but for far too long—

she and i are both waiting for something, though it seems neither of us knows what

she begins to sing,

a singular song of savage hope—

piercing my aching heart,

not grand,

but pure—

she gazes at me, unflinchingly,

singing my name.

i sob openly now,

knowing she is not here for nothing,

she is here for me.

~ j. avellana hongo