You enter through depths of ocean floor

meeting sky, bowl bottoms and moons, raindrops

becoming nature’s earrings, light transparent as heart.

You welcome ferns and eucalyptus inside, release air and breath

of courtyards and gardens.

Through floor-to-ceiling glass windows, workers and visitors integrating

vision, labor of saws and hammers, computers thrumming,

paint brushes, patina

of copper turning green through the magic of nature.

Can this wandering on stone paths lead to embrace of eyes, of trees

of winters and springs?

Can we sing or bellow against tyranny against earth, peoples

and creatures, our fish, toucans of bright beaks?

You wear your skin dappled with V’s of blue sky, contract

and expand, our breaths, this freedom we seek amid

children’s laughter, the posing of a black girl and a yellow girl dancing

in liberation’s glare, the lover, in a wheelchair, of Asawa’s sculptural art.

Circling the grounds around the Pool of Enchantment, riding the elevator

for views of a city glistening in March’s pale light, then touching your skin, golden

and dark brown, the forest of Obata’s trees, you open

your thousand eyes, obsidian, free.

Nellie Wong

March 4, 2023

© 2023 Nellie Wong

Written in response to M.H de Young Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, Fong & Chan Architects, principal architect.

Listen to Nellie Wong read Ode

Oakland-born Nellie Wong traveled across the Bay to pursue studies in creative writing at San Francisco State University, while working as a secretary for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation when she began writing poetry in the early 1970’s. Today, Nellie visits the de Young in search of new art and new ideas.

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