nationalpoetrymonth2011

In the event of change

I am saying primroses lined the pathway of toothless hedges. 


I am saying the ocean shimmered like corrugated steel in the 
morning sun.


The context of my story changes when you enter. Then I am dung
on the walls of the nomad’s field. Then the everyday waking person.


I am nodding in your direction like fissures between dandelion fur.
Seeing in your manner.


I am speaking your pace. Slippage of silk slippers.


I say you are losing sight. I say your breasts are dry shells.


I am afraid of what I am capable of doing.


This is all a manner of stating how I prepare myself to be loved.


––Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, from Rules of the House 

23

Girl singing. Day. And on her way 
She has to pass by the oldest mountain.
That at least is certain. Rain. That
Doth leave no stain. And again whose
Flowers move jealously. O pity me.
O if her eyes move and destroy all
Firmament. How brightly devised is
That moment. Much and muchly praised.
O day imperishably dazed. O woman
God-grazed. Succour God alone, O
Teach him Joy. O girl singing. O
For whom alone God bows out. O lovely
Throat. O world’s end. O brightly
Devised crystal moment.

––Doveglion, from eponymous Collected Poems 

On Splitting | Cathy Park Hong

Wind does not whip, it caresses. Or it whips when a mail order song 
crescendoes in the background. The blowsy sails. The fat, fat sky.

  
We blow air bubbles. Once they touch the dry outer skin of your lips, they
pop: a pocket of unsaid gas.


The taste of body, the drumming on lard. A kind of love that has become
autistic. 


Mother and Father on the hilt of a sugary cake. An avalanche but a minor 
one that tastes confectionary. Photographs of Mother the bride. A stiff
smile that does not like dairy.


Denote passion.


A Korean wedding. There is a sign for blushing: two perfect red circles
pasted on the bride’s cheeks. Or it’s a sign for passion, good luck, or maybe
it’s to hide the pallor.


The girl takes the knife, the boy takes it from her, the girl takes the knife,
the boy takes it from her, the girl takes the knife, the boy takes it from her,
the girl takes the knife, the boy takes it from her.


The stage is set for the woman with the killer whale eyes. She announces,
‘there is no love, only longing.' 


My mother said, “If you eat lying down , you’ll grow hair on your crotch.”


To find passion, I should have written a lyric poem. A poem that would
roll off the tongue like icing, curdles curds , whey, icing, a cube of ice.


The first Korean man I liked shared a plate of squid with me. I called him
brother because I was much younger than he. Chewing on a flank, he told
me he’d slept with five women and fallen in love with one.


I grew a petri dish of princes, all replicating and jostling each other for my
hand.


Afterwards, we kissed in the dark enclaves of a stuffy TV room. Our
tongues were not sure of each other and our breaths stank of salted squid. It
was not what I fantasized.


I am here to lick your shoes, your hairy shins, your eventual cock.


My parents never kissed in public. Except once. An obligation on the
cheek before my father left.


The word most often said during lovemaking: ttagawu. This could mean 
itchy or spicy.The same word used when wearing a wool sweater that irri-
tates, or easing into a tub of scalding water.


I would have preferred a sealed letter, even a terse message taped to the
refrigerator. Rather than the talk, the askwardness of it, the restraint. A let-
ter daggers her heart — dagger. The histrionics of dagger. 


To restrain. 


Adolescent obsessions: Greek mythology, heavy metal rock stars, documen- 
tation of freaks (Mexican midget, triplets, albino sword swallowers), iron-
on T-shirts, breasts, he who gave you your first bong hit and kiss.


Along the soldered road, he lies motionless. I arrive and crouch down. Kiss
his rigor mortis lips and he rises. This is a holy scripture or a movie.


We barely knew each other yet he confessed to me until his face clattered
off like a hubcap.


Restraint turns passion into shame. Or worse, martyrs. My mother comes
from a country of martyrs, a fetish of martyrs, a crateful of martyrs.


This is not a precious jade bracelet. It is plastic, given to me by my Italian
friend who bought it for 50 cents.


The girl takes the knife.


I don’t know the Korean word for sex. I ask Mother, Father, a couple of
aunts. What’s the word? They feign ignorance. I aks a friend living in Seoul.
Even she doesn’t know. “There are many words that refer to it. Just not one
definite one.”


  
Along the soldered road, there is a man sleeping. I pause, wanting to kiss
him. But I am apprehensive that he would awake, become offended or
confused. I shut the book or I open the book, earmark the page, shut the
book.

Cathy Park Hong, from Translating Mo'um 

Kundiman for My Lover Beside Me on the Floor (Her Daughter Asleep on My Bed)

There are things I would like to know 
right now: a woman’s left hip called morning
her right hip called night
and the secret blossom between
slowly becoming dusk
how long to hold the anaphora of breath
along her sternum Every day I say
Tell me what you like and every day you say 
it’s your daughter’s fingers twirled in your hair
Once it was the calluses of my hands
Tonight you sleep beside me
as thought this is practice for the only way
you know how to say goodbye


I’ve wanted to mistake your eyes for sadness
I’ve wanted to kiss the wings
tattooed on the back of your neck
to know your belly by its quiver I’ve wanted
to touch your breast like a man
learning his name in Braille Maybe then
I thought I’d sleep for once without the dream
of being lost in the landscape of your lap
waiting for you to tell me where I am
as if I could find my way back
as if I had some idea of home
as if I could ever live
where my heart was not ashamed to break


Patrick Rosal, from My American Kundiman 

Chronicle of the City of Managua

I was invited to dinner by Comandante Tomás Borge. I hadn’t met him before. He had the reputation of being the toughest of them all, the one people feared the most. There were other guests at the table, wonderful people. He said nothing, or next to nothing. He was watching me, sizing me up. 

The second time, we had dinner alone. Tomás was more open, freely answering my questions about the old days when they were founding the Sandinista Front. And around mid-night, like someone who is avoiding saying what he actually means, he said: 

“All right now, tell me a movie.”

I pleaded with him, explaining that I lived in Calella, a small town where few movies were shown, old movies…

“Tell me one,” he insisted, ordered. “Any movie—any one, even if it isn’t new.”

So I told him a comedy. I told it. I acted it out I tried to summarize but he demanded details. And as soon as I finished:

“Another one.”

I told him a gangster film with a lousy ending.

“Another.”

I told him a western.

“Another.”

I told him a love story, making it up out of whole cloth. 

I think dawn was breaking when, pleading for mercy, I gave up and went off to bed.

I met him a week later. Tomás apologized:

“I squeezed the last drop out of you the other night. It’s just that I like the movies so much, I’m crazy about them. And I can never go.”

I told him that it was perfectly understandable. He was Nicaragua’s minister of the interior in the middle of a war. The enemy was giving no quarter and there was no time for the movies or other such luxuries.

“No, no,” he corrected me. “Time I’ve got. Time…. You can make time if you want to. It’s not for lack of time. In the past, when I was living underground, incognito, I arranged to go to the movies. But now…”

I didn’t ask. He paused and then went on:

“I can’t go to the movies because… because when I’m at the movies, I cry.”

“Ah,” I said. “Me too.”

“Of course,” he said. “I knew it right away. As soon as I saw you, I thought: ‘This guy cries at the movies.’”


Eduardo Galeano, from The Book of Embraces


Sinner, don't you weep

This was before shame, before the word 
for nakedness. The world was little matter.

We were just two bodies in the night. 
In that old place death was no more

brutal than the sea I dove in every day. I was light 
floating over water. There was no word yet

for soiled. Salt jeweled my skin and I 
sucked the dark taste of my pleasure.

Do not tell me you do not understand. 
I have seen your eyes lap, known your skin

to swallow what another’s skin has shed. 
I have watched you drink a body. Do not

tell me you are innocent of hunger. Desire 
is the flesh, the fruit you cry for every night.


Camille Dungy, from What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison