Shin Yu Pai

Shin Yu Pai is a poet, essayist and visual artist. She is the author of several books including Virga (Empty Bowl), ENSŌ (Entre Ríos), Sightings: Selected Works (1913 Press), Aux Arcs (La Alameda), Adamantine (White Pine), and Equivalence (La Alameda). She served as the fourth poet laureate of the city of Redmond from 2015 to 2017 and has been an artist-in-residence for the Seattle Art Museum, Town Hall Seattle, and Pacific Science Center. She is a three-time fellow of MacDowell and has been in residence at Taipei Artist Village, The Ragdale Foundation, Centrum, and The National Park Service. Her visual work has been shown at The Dallas Museum of Art, The MAC, and The Museum of American Jazz. Her poetry films have screened at the Zebra Poetry Festival and the Northwest Film Forum. Shin Yu’s nonfiction has appeared in Tricycle, Atlas Obscura, and Zocalo Public Square. For more info, visit

seaweed sprinkles

down the street from my house
Buerjia closes its doors when

troubles procuring the main
item in their signature dish

force a closure,
it’s not sauerkraut fish

without the tilapia, over at Trader Joe’s
the shelves are bare of canned green chiles,

gluten-free pancakes,
my son’s favorite furikake,

the annual gingerbread house-
making cookie kit not yet in stock,

I think about this season’s authors
their publications pushed back

yet another year, books stalled
at the printer’s, delayed by

international shipping, paper
shortages I’ve read as I eye

my stack of dwindling post-it
pads covered in handwritten notes

scattered ingredients for unwritten poems

stale fish syndrome

some smells overpower
in how they mask the character

of what lies beneath, the uniqueness
of pheromones scientists suppose

that certain animals,
felines for instance

know the whiff of impending
mortality in the cancerous body,

before death’s final rattle,
humans are less attuned

to olfactory awareness covering
up the musty languor of lifetimes

with the chemical perfume
of an Irish Spring, the air

freshener for the corpse that’s
in its last days, our relevance too

bearing the rasa of decay