On the Other Side of the Magpie by Hannah Lee

 Winner of the 2023 Birdhouse Prize!

Hannah Lee is a NYC based Korean-American poet who processes her world through poetry. She is a graduate from the CUNY Queens College MFA program, and was an editor at Armstrong Literary. Her work has been featured in Encounters Magazine.


The botanical garden in my neighborhood is free 
until April. A frigid Sunday morning and a bad 

NCIS episode later, we find ourselves walking 
through grass peeking through patches of melting 

snow, and the bare gnarled branches reach not for light,
but warmth. My mother sits to rest and I can’t help 

but see the same patches of snow, as if melting through 
her hair, streaking past the past. And the past is here, 

I can see it in her eyes as she looks up to those same gnarled 
fingers reaching for warmth like her own. 

She has been complaining about the cold as of late. 
I can’t remember when she started aching and walking

slowly, I can’t help it. I’ll pull a muscle now.
We walk down the streets trying to buy soy milk and warm 

roasted sweet potatoes. I want to see what she sees 
in those trees that line the park. The bare trees with 

a sole bird perched atop. She mentions the bird to me. 
she wonders about it, not aloud, but I hear. 

The other birds fly about and flitter 
towards the ground in groups, playing, eating, living 

their small bird lives. I envy these birds 
that know more about her thoughts than I.