Red Packets 

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Background Art: During the Chinese New Year celebration, there is a tradition of offering gifts — especially to the children — in brightly decorated red envelopes that convey best wishes for the coming year. 

The Windy City blows against the red lanterns outside,

Tendrils from the awaiting hot pot waft through the air,

With withered hands, a thick crimson packet is handed to me,

Grandpa smiles, eyes twinkling.


A new day in San Francisco,

Perfect for a walk, thinks the stranger,

His eyes shining, oh how lucky to be here,

living so close to family.


Such a generous gift,

He said in his old age of 86, he found himself very lucky,

To share such special moments like this,

Safe, warm, with family.

Small, crinkled, rectangular paper cannot amount to it.


Tentative shuffles into the sunlight,

Exercise is important for old men like me, he thought.

84 times traveled around the sun,

a life that is blessed, prosperous,

— unassuming.


Months later,

Grandpa did not travel around the sun for the 87th time,

he moved on to the stars.

Grieving, but at peace that he went forth,

from a tranquil place.


Pavement is cool in the shadows,

last moments,

a whirlwind of motion, the ground and sky realigned.

The cold, hard, unrelenting cement,

then nothing.


Both coming forth from the lands of their ancestors,

outlining new lives for their descendants,

only for them,

to be looked upon as a virus,

something of contamination,

lumped into an assumption,

rewarded with violence. 



may this be a year of resilience.

The lives they have sown like oxen,

rightfully exist in memory.

Brothers and sisters from all walks of life,

dignity and respect,

that’s all we ask.

In tribute to Vicha Ratanapakdee, his family, and those victimized by the recent attacks against the elderly Asian community.

“Red Packets” by Sarah Ko won first prize in the 2021 Annual Dudley Randall Poetry Competition at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), which honors the late Mr. Randall as the first Poet Laureate of Detroit, UDM Reference Librarian, and founder/publisher of Broadside Press.