Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.
The nine volunteers for October 2015 are Cristiana Baik, Saehoo Cho, Taey Iohe, Hyejung Kook, Joseph O. Legaspi, Pamela Paek, Margaret Rhee, Debbie Yee, and Emily Jungmin Yoon. Read their full bios by clicking here.
Please follow their work (by clicking “Follow” on the bottom of the page), and feel free to acknowledge their generosity and creativity with a show of your admiration and support by donating on their behalf to Tupelo Press. (Click here to donate, scroll down to the form at the bottom, and and choose their name from the 30/30 dropdown menu.) Just imagine what a challenge it is to write 30 new poems in 30 days!
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems and warm up your pen!
Day 9 / Poems 9
Color as an Exercise of Visual Perception / by Cristiana Baik
“In a picture in which a piece of white paper
gets its lightness from the blue sky,
the sky is lighter than the white paper.
And yet in another sense blue is the darker
and white the lighter colour. (Goethe).
On the palette white is the light colour.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Colour
when I look out
to describe this Friday
morning as calcified
I mean it bare
hard at the throat,
a deposit of rusty dreams
where I run led first
by my collarbone, a corroded
language that folds
like a fist in my throat
in the furthest corner,
understanding the concept
but not the mechanics of prayer,
understanding the concept
but not the mechanics of devotion,
so I begin simply,
with the sight
of the bare maple
and a mourning dove.
Zero gravity / by Taey Iohe
There is only a zone of the faked experience of reducing gravity. When a place ascends at 90 degrees, and drops back down at 90 degees vertically, this creates circumstances similar to a space without gravity.
Please scroll past comment form to read the previous days’ poems.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Casting the Scene / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/762mG7k_jH/?taken-by=nswinston
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . my roommate, a musician,
would open the windows in the evening,
night drifting, becoming the frame.
We took out the Wild Turkey.
He played the piano, reconstructing
syncopated narratives like puzzles
only he knew.
I read—Fanon, Gordimer, Vazirani,
Cha—a thrum of breath, curled,
holding a book.
He only played songs in minor keys—sonatas
and preludes by Schubert, Chopin—because, he told me,
laughing, I embrace melancholia as a study.
Despite how that sounds, he was an earnest guy.
In the din of dorm light,
we drank and listened, conversed
clumsily, freely, admitting secrets,
losses, fears. I told him, Everything I read
makes me cry. Theory, poetry, prose—it doesn’t
matter what it is.
Leaning into language’s slips, duration, rhythm
was the most precise way
to indulge myself.
He answered, Well, isn’t moderation
the worst lesson?
#8 / by Saehee Cho
Heavy and long in the limbs
See me, pressing up
A tired form, whole
I too, can make myself broad
the body is a temple, the body is a temple, the body is a temple
Decipher / by Taey Iohe
I don’t have many words today
As I am at the top of a tower of silence
Where gravity is heavier and joints are weaker
This is the most significant number in the long year
I came to the world at 5 minutes after midnight today
Through the canal, riding a raft of time
Steering the black water like a floater
Through the dawn fog with a dog
I now know life is made of daydreams and nightmares
I am the passenger, singing a vibration
A sign of movement in me
Telling me that there is a turning point in this path
I don’t have much to say today
as all the important things are written in unlanguage
#8 / translation by Hyejung Kook
대초 불 붉은 골에 밤은 어이 뜯들으며
벼 빈 그루에 게는 어이 나리는고?
술 익자 체장사 돌아가니 아니 먹고 어이리.
In the valley where the jujubes are ripe, how is it that chestnuts fall
And freshwater crabs crawl around the rice stubs after harvest?
The wine’s ready and the sieve peddler has come by–what is there to do but indulge.
Your Mother Wears a House Dress / by Joseph O. Legaspi
If this house
is a dress
it’ll fit like
red sun burning
certain it will
a boy no less
a boy in disrepair
to shore, never
he is, warm,
radiant in a
Uncovered Gardener’s Haul / by Pamela Paek
At the stoplight, leaves jump out
the truck bed like grasshoppers. In pairs,
trios, and half dozens.
They leapfrog and skip across the blacktop.
Catch air like a baby goat leaping. Fly in
small bursts like a young bird unsure
how to take full flight. No scuttling.
These leaves whip the wind.
Day 7 / Poems 7
Underneath the Light of the Subway Car / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/8XLZtAE_nZ/
. . . . . . he sat holding a bouquet
of hermansens lilies,
their petals folded like silver napkins
in white kernel
light. The last time I saw him,
he sat next to me on a peach antique
divan I had purchased from Sara, a screen printer
from Georgia. A cold bulb bore a hollow
in my stomach. An abrasive, tender, weight.
Was this the lesson
to be had, that cruelty and desire
could be the same act, the same pleasurable
disease. And there he sat,
carefully tying his shoes, saying nothing. It was,
after all, a simple fact. That it was May, and May
mornings’ heat was intimate and small
like air trapped in a hive, the sun’s
rays soiling the drapes. Why did it all
still feel so new, this old bruise?
Like anesthesia, light’s cast brought relief
so there was
only is. Kissing me
he said, Don’t expect too
much. Four years later, I notice the orange-stained
stamens curling, folding
like dry paper.
At the Penn Station stops, he stands
and walks out.
A woman takes his seat, saying, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Someone left a lily.
#7 / by Saehee Cho
Heavy palms and a voice
An agitated spirit
A man already spent
“Rage” is “to surge furiously”
In my impatience, I cut you down
A sign, a signal
General Assembly / by Taey Iohe
How’s It Gonna End Tom Waits
Surf Solar Fuck Buttons
We Didn’t Start The Fire Billy Joel
Hell Is Around The Corner Tricky
I Predict A Riot Kaiser Chiefs
Runway To Elsewhere Pacific!
Ill Manors Plan B
Scary World Theory Lali Puna
Sunny Afternoon The Kinks
White riot The Clash
Kick Out the Jams the MC5
Movin On Up Curtis Mayfield
Bring the Noise Public Enemy
3 Feet High and Rising de La Soul
Theres a Riot Going On Marvin Gaye
Gimme Shelter the Rolling Stones
5 Man Army Massive Attack
Piss Factory Patti Smith
Fast Car Tracey Chapman
212 Azealia Banks
Paragraphs Relentless Dalek
Teenage Riot Sonic Youth
Convincing People Throbbing Gristle
Levi Stubbs Tears Billy Bragg
Shipbuilding Robert Wyatt
Baby Meets Botero / by Hyejung Kook
He goes for the feet first. Much like his own, chubby,
high arched, except each toe is bigger than his fist.
Reaching out to touch, he hesitates, pulls back
before making contact. Then like every other
passerby, he peers up at the golden penis,
the bronze patina rubbed off by the touch
of many. “Jiji!” he cries out, meaning
“chicken chicken” in Mandarin, slang
for penis, as he throws his hands up
in joyful recognition, his whole
being turned upward, rapt,
as if to say, “I see you,
and in you I see me.
We are alike, and
Urban Jungle / by Joseph O. Legaspi
On primetime cable television (which means nothing anymore), the Irish survival expert/adventurer/Eton graduate Bear Grylls happens upon the remains of a mostly eaten antelope abandoned by its predator–a lion, a leopard–in the Zambian wilderness. To maintain his strength, before the hyenas come, he slices a piece of pink flesh off a furry leg amid a swarm of flies feasting along. It would be safer if he cooks it, he narrates, but there’s no time for fire, and so he bites into the raw meat and gristle with his thin upper lip that leaves me a-quiver. I, then, cannot masticate my carnitas tacos and my guacamole turns a darker green. Once he swallows his protein Bear rushes farther into the open bush, strategizing the arduous intricacies of staying alive. He will spend the darker night atop a baobab, the tree of life, which fruit he feeds on after knocking them down with logs, flung. I grab the tiramisu gelato from the freezer. Bear dodges hippos, elephants; climbs cliffs; discovers safe drinking water. I imbibed on my bottle of cabernet sauvignon, half-full. By this time, Bear has devoured a variety of coveted, energy-robust proteins: spiky caterpillars squeezed empty of its green innards, then roasted; a bullfrog caught with a thorn tree branch used by the Rhodesian Army for torture; catfish tasting of mud and dung. I sip my cup of darjeeling. Survival is hard work.
The Good-Hi / by Pamela Paek
We met when I sported a Jheri curl,
a perm that burned the skin off the back of my neck
as straight-stick Korean hair wasn’t meant
to have locks that tight, nor constantly look
so wet with Infusium 23, or need that much time
to prep with a diffuser. We were fresh at fourteen
and I knew when I met you that I needed to be better.
You could see past my denim jacket and neon green,
and I was scared. I squinched up high in a tree for us
to take a pic. That was one of two times I climbed a tree
and I have photos to prove this.
I went with you to church some evenings
because I wanted so much to be pious and pure.
When I saw you sing, your mouth curled up
like a cantaloupe slice and somehow this smile
met your eyes, many times closed,
and together, they made this perfect circle
if I squinted just right, so I could see your face
be a circle of happiness.
You were always nearby, three rows back
in Mr. Peterson’s science class freshman year,
to my front right in Mrs. Mooney’s
sophomore English class, when we made a little movie
and perfectly timed Lionel Richie’s
“Hello” as our paper Odysseus greeted Nausicaa, or some
other woman from that story I’ve long forgotten.
I remember how clever we thought we were
until Long and Steve showed their clay animation
and I felt like once again I hadn’t done enough.
So, when you touched my arm to stop me,
when we both traipsed Shattuck Avenue 10 years
after high school, me in my myopic fast-paced
I questioned myself: yes, I’m so happy to see you
and want to learn everything about you. But have I done
enough good to share with you? The answer was no
and we never got together.
Dear Alice, I’ve tried so hard and am so sorry I’ve failed.
#7 / by Debbie Yee
So, now, signatures and dresses
are splashed in red, a way
of forgetting familial tint while
evoking blood. I’m pursuing her
and will be all the way until
I’m run out of hollow clay vessels
to hold my salt and breath in.
I’m looking for something in me
on the 18th floor of non-specificity,
meanwhiling myself in conversation
with the psychotherapist.
Ambiguity in the Park / by Emily Jungmin Yoon
A loose French bulldog runs toward
a congregation of pigeons,
and the birds break
as a single wave
into space, sending blond girls
shrieking. My friends and I
observe in Korean the colors
of near-doves, and a white man
in a tan flat cap
reading the Chicago Tribune
Take over the whole world,
animals! Take it.
Day 6 / Poems 6
#6 / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/6odf-5E_sT/
#6 / by Saehee Cho
That slipping place
where I find you
still emitting light
Glance the silver belly
A soft wash, and then gone
The sliding glass cracked, just so
Dal 달 / by Taey Iohe
A pack of dancers stormed onto the stage, covered in earth
Chasing, chased, run, fell, moved.
A bunch of Cacti stood tall on the stage, overwhelmingly.
The same dancers came onto the stage to dance, cry and laugh
You came with the buzz of April,
Still a joyful beginning of the year.
A coincidental meeting with a delightful teacher from SF,
Full of a butterfly-pre-warning of having you,
And a brief disappointment of not having you.
Then you finally came to me.
Before your arrival
You still shake us with all the worries and what-ifs in the world,
You will stay strong and come to us with determination for life.
You will make us laugh about all the anxious scenarios,
You will teach us about long nights and short life,
You will tell us how much love we can hold in ourselves.
You will have a full life
You will be delicious
You will tango with us.
Swimming at Dusk / by Hyejung Kook
the shock on my scalp as I plunge
into cold water, an envelope of clarity
dispelling the fog of first trimester fatigue
so thick some days I forget I need to breathe
but now, fully immersed, required
to take breath after thoughtful breath
my thoughts are limpid again
nothing deep, just clear
I recognize the buoyancy of water
the sweet drag of air through my lungs
my body waking up through deliberate action
stroke after stroke, breast, side, free
when my head breaks the water, I catch
brief glimpses of birch, magnolia, sycamore
the wind rising as the sky darkens
so intent in each movement and breath
for a moment I don’t recognize
the moon breaking through low clouds
and delight in my confusion
when was I last startled by the moon?
I end, as always, with a dead man’s float
eyes staring at nothing, my whole body limp
in its surrender to the water
drifting gently in the current
I count my slowing heartbeats, utterly relaxed
until I have to straighten and breathe again
Aubade with Excised Dogs / by Joseph O. Legaspi
A landscape is not
complete without a three-
legged dog, I retorted, when,
in bed, he exclaimed how
we are in a perfect one,
buried volcanically under
a cumulus eiderdown, rising
like the Sierra Madre.
How we seemed to be
the same length, curved,
fetal, scissored, spooned,
we could stay horizontal
forever. What is time?
Is it a Sunday, Piercing
Light, indicating nothing?
While his booming laugh
at my absurdist whimsy
jolted another seismic
layer, let me remind
you, My Big Bang
love, of the many
mongrels that skipped,
sprung and pogo sticked
into our periphery, they
appeared as if visions
from jungles, lagoons
and bogs to roadsides,
chunks of themselves
excised yet what’s missing
completes, I’d behold them
foreground against backdrop
with astonishment, recognition,
in shantytowns, suburbs …
As we lay, satiated in our
man-made environs, we
remember the pitbull
on a beach, oblivious,
unfeeling of lost,
as a wind-up springing
tripod in the sand,
from its big, carefree
cerberus head saliva
glistened like gossamer.
I Never Say I’m a Feminist / by Pamela Paek
As I came to the counter to get some pamphlets,
she eyed my navy tea-length Laura Ashley dress,
with the slight puff at the shoulders and
three-quarter sleeves, with the rose brocade
and sweetheart neckline. And she couldn’t
miss the pearls, or the spiral perm teased up
and held with a large matching bow.
I watched her take it all in, so when she hissed,
“you have no idea who Gloria Steinem is, do you?”
I knew my Jessica McClintock perfume was too much,
. . . . . . later verified when the half bottle spilled over my box of books I drove to grad school
. . . . . . and even a year later, the fragrance made me gag, so I threw them all away
. . . . . . and haven’t worn perfume since.
I wished the sorority pin over my heart wasn’t the flashy
14k gold adorned with pearls and topped with a ruby,
or that yesterday I wore a red suit with gold trim piping
along the blazer’s collar and bottom of the pleated skirt
with shoes dyed to match. Monday was a jade green
dress with a flared skirt and fake pockets that looked
like scallop shells. And always hose. I’d never go out
bare legged. And big earrings. Ones bigger than silver
dollars, except gold, like large pirate coins.
I looked straight at her, and never breaking my gaze,
took my right hand and swished off all the piles
of paper she had neatly lined and color coded,
so they scattered the floor in a mix of pastels.
I never acknowledged her question, and when
we ran into each other in the bathroom at an
Indigo Girls’ concert two days later, I was in baggy
jeans and a tee-shirt. She stopped and flourished
her arm for me to go first. I smiled.
Los Angeles Poem #1 / by Margaret Rhee
I learned that Los Angeles
Today, had a rainy morning
I imagine it smelled like concrete, plastic,
Smog, trees, bowls of green onion.
The Koreans are eating ox-tail stew for breakfast.
Someday, I will join them. I like rainy days in
Los Angeles because people slow down.
It is the reason I love poetry.
I wish more people would read.
Whenever I fly into Los Angeles, I feel that
First breath off the plane tells me I am home.
I was born here. My father died here.
He gave his last breath to this city.
Sing me a song about the weather.
Singe me a song about your body.
Remember, there is a street named
Yucca, but it also means 7th in Korean.
Remember, in the swimming pool,
Float with your eyes closed, as the sun
Beats upon your face.
Remember, hold your hand
On top of the bed of rice, measure the water
Up to just above the top of your hand.
My father didn’t teach me, but then
I think I can conclude, he taught me much.
For now, I will keep my knowledge private, because
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned not everyone
Deserve to know. Sometimes, you must keep things to yourself.
Sorrow and smudge is part of every Korean American
Experience. So is delicious food and tasty alcohol, didn’t ya know?
I used to love this area, I say as we drive home,
My father lived down the street.
I don’t say he died nearby, nor that I saw him weep slowly
An hour before he was swept away into a coma.
I assured him then it would be okay.
With his eyes closed, I chanted it everyday at the hospital,
Even though at 21,
I stopped believing in God.
Father, forgive me: my benediction to you was a lie.
I refuse to be saved.
#6 / by Debbie Yee
Sickness leaves the patterning
of monarch butterfly wings
laced in the lungs
Beauty of contrast
Black webbing and uneven holes
all around. This is me
in awkward remembrance
of being four. Everything
about the 1970s is an aqua sepia,
my aqua-ed remembrance.
Great Flood / by Emily Jungmin Yoon
And so if the world ends,
taking with it all loving things,
and you alone survive,
know that I have not forgotten you.
I may be sinking yet, or washed
ashore. But I have not forgotten you.
You’d stand and think, I can’t live,
but decide to live for a while.
Look for what remains.
The dead isn’t the one who forgets.
And so if the world ends,
keep these for me.
The taste of persimmon flowers.
How baram means wind
or wish, how your name means light.
Remember chimes. The bark of pine.
Sijo, gasa, sonata, aria, have them all.
Remember what I say now–
that I have not forgotten you.
The clefs in your ears, nor your lashes–
precise and black like piano keys.
Day 5 / Poems 5
After Icarus / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/4UloSGk_v2/
at darkening dusk, the moon’s phantom slinks,
eating the age of rust
from swings swung by bristling wind fracturing
shadows onto rolling leaves. we smoke
in dampened grass
each blade’s singular length of silence
impressing into our worked, worn palms.
the horizon recedes; blue-tarred, half-stars advance.
in the dark, we marvel at the moths,
their iridescent desire
of a singular source (are humans
really that different), the tin sheen
of wings flashing to dust
of stadium light.
#5 / by Saehee Cho
I perforate the space between us
conjuring an end is seeking out a puncture, a small imperceptible hole
I press myself
I think of my ready heart
Dear Drifter, / by Taey Iohe
You came to me to be part of a picture that I am making. We went to the location together to see how it should be made. You saw the water is deeper than you thought it would be. We heard the sound of water ripples and waves, drifting and plunging past wooden posts in the river bed. I saw your face, slightly frightened. Soon, you have decided and walked away; I was waiting to see you again.
As a drifter, you see exterior spaces on the river, in the city, which do not appear to you as they do to the rest of us as residents of the town. The seeing of a city with a foreign gaze only lasts for a while; gradually everyday life becomes more familiar than strange. I started a transhistorical narrative between Hyeseok and Mary. Now I have you – without a name and without a destination.
You are a moving story and presence between the poles of departure and arrival. Your trajectory across the river calls the watercourse into being as a translating space; you are changed by your journey across it. The townspeople understand their neighbours across the water differently. Your movement, and that of your dreams with you on the bed, is drifting, unpredictable, as the first pencil line of a drawing, but always towards me. The bed on which you float is instituted as a language which carries your story. The sleeping journey across the river translates that language. You are crossing the threshold, back to wakefulness, reciprocally given me your sleeping journey; but in the film you drift on, to be translated again.
Best wishes for your next journey,
Chuseok Conversation / by Hyejung Kook
“Do you remember that day?” “I hope the bed
is comfortable enough. Halmoni just unstitched
the cover and stitched on a new one.
Bright red and leaf green.” “The one by the sea,
the shore rocky, not sand.” “Even if you’re
no longer a new bride.” “Surely you remember
the sea.” “I wish we could have come to the wedding.”
“The rows of octopi drying in the sun like stiff laundry,
the live one in a pink plastic bowl, would-be escapee,
a single tentacle stretching for freedom.” “Do you remember
when we drank together? Soju I instilled with grapes.
What a good thing it is to drink with my granddaughter.”
“You offered me a sip of soju with that octopus,
the chopped limbs still writhing on the plate,
chromatophores in the skin pulsing like tiny hearts.”
“It burns so smoothly.” “The tentacles clung to tongue
and mouth, even with a splash of sesame oil.”
“You stayed that night, too.” “I stayed many nights,
but not enough.” “Sleep well, granddaughter.”
“Sleep well, Haraboji. I’ll visit in the mountains
when I can, with soju to pour on your grave.”
The Poem of an Hour / by Joseph O. Legaspi
Waits to be born to die.
Or to be resuscitated
from a waterless
Or be sparked
Those at their desk
in the final hour
of night dream
of more hours.
Butter, Tomatoes, and Bamboo / by Pamela Paek
I want to go to Costco to unwrap
a brick of butter and text you a selfie.
Then wander the tomatoes with all the
fruit names, like grape and cherry and plum.
I call the larger ones heirloom because
they are ridge-bumped like mini pumpkins
and have a sickly green undertone that muddle
the bright red, purple, orange, and yellow.
I frown about your yellow heirloom—
. . . . . . Hey, be gentle, I’m a tomato neophyte!
. . . . . . I searched online, it might be called a Hugh,
. . . . . . so I’ll call yours Hef—
you put Hef in front of your face as your profile
pic. And it was today as I wrote this I realized
my frown was about not seeing your eyes, as I think
I need those to know how much you get me.
What I do know is two of your photos
from Japan lied to me, in a way you never
would. The first with plums imitating smooth lychees,
and the second of a bamboo forest beyond my mind
because you looked so tiny when you are
the most honorable giant to me.
Emoticon Poem About Mars / by Margaret Rhee
Here is a whale [emoticon] and a flower [emoticon] for you. Sending fox [emoticon].
Guess what, today I saw no animals (maybe insects) but lots of sunlight here, and flowers
along my walk. Here is another flower [emoticon]. I’m not going to send a happy face,
too cliché, but maybe I’ll send you an watermelon [emoticon]. Would that be nice to eat
on a Fall almost Winter day. I met someone named Sharon, and she said the hardest thing
about Mars is the dark. It gets dark very early and is always dark. That hasn’t happened
yet. It’s still very light here. I’m glad to hear the morning there included some rain and
sweet fog, not really Californian, but makes it beautiful because it interrupts what we
think of the weather. But I remember. Here, sending you the song that you like [link].
Sending you a star [emoticon]. I saw many this morning. Sending. And yes, to soon.
#5 / by Debbie Yee
The piano tuner tickles her ovaries
the stage for rapid follicular release
devours the mistakes that aren’t theirs
No one explains in sex ed
that the one-eyed cyclops
is the cervix itself
the loveliest of monsters
holding a union where it does
I saw with my own eyes
the doubling of hormones
the fourth pregnancy a feat
accomplished in double time
There’s no music
in medical uncertainty
Just us, giggling our way
out of this
week by week.
Patience / by Emily Jungmin Yoon
You live in my eyes,
in which you wake early
to mend the soil.
Morning after rain,
when the clay is soft.
their hair. An early worm
gets eaten by the bird.
You plant my lashes
around the iris–
I lie. I’ve never seen you
in your garden.
I only know the kind
of patience you practiced,
of one who picks caterpillars
off tomato leaves
and releases them
as butterflies. Today
I look at you and you
don’t remember the garden—
Only its promise,
its candor to time.
Day 4 / Poems 4
#4 / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/8HUuWqk_sj/
Remember the last drive
down Dan Ryan
an adhesive. Worn
words in our mouths
sense of damage now
not much more
than the full moon
Your anger was like shattered
glass left on the floor
for someone to
you called—15 hours
ahead of Chicago—I was
in the present moment, waiting
for the future
Now here, tonight
as you drive, I watch a flock
storm their way
in blind, arithmetic
rhythm, their collective
flight the shape of a hand
before they disperse
The road continues, swerving
into the wind.
#4 / by Saehee Cho
watch particle dust
moving, somehow, up
The Second Person Singular / by Taey Iohe
I make many unfinished sentences. My words come out from a memory of thought, then logic drags the words. Another sticky memory of language follows from that sentence. I stop making words, when I think of you. You are as a second person, who would read and listen to all my unfinished, uncompleted language.
She asks me the same question again; Are you familiar with me?
I guess I am familiar with you
Familiar with your voice, I recognise your smell, shape and habits.
I know how these things make me feel; I know where we sit and lie comfortably.
Yet she says she is not familiar with me.
You are different from everybody else, and you are different from me.
What you think, what you like, how you feel safe; these are formed from other experiences that only you have.
It’s important that you know it’s okay to be an artist. Reasons and logic may need to follow, after you make a muddy mess, but you need to insist and speak, that what you create belongs to the realm of imagination. I am here to relate, demonstrate, interrogate and reflect your nouns, your pronouncements, your meanings.
Please do not correct me with autocorrection. If I need to learn, I will learn by using wrong words. What if pronouns can speak? What would they tell us about nouns? Do pronouns already translate, by their very existence?
We, as collective pronouns, are here to save you some time, by being who we are. We are invisible fingers, to point out the direction toward which our language flows, between objects, sometimes between landscapes or people.
Let me tell you how I started to speak to you. I imagine you are there, with multiple faces. You destroyed your home, the place you came from, and made a new place to settle. You crossed lines over your body and through your body; you drew new lines over these coordinates, as the territory was explored. Suddenly through the dark of erased words, there you are, the unexpected audience that I have been waiting for.
#4 / translation by Hyejung Kook
사랑이 어떻더니 두렷더냐 넓었더냐?
기더냐 자르더냐 발을려냐 자일러냐?
지멸이 긴 줄은 모르되 애궃을 만하더라.
“What was love like? Was it round? Was it wide?
Was it long? Was it short? Could you measure it with your arms? With your feet?”
“I don’t know how long it was, but it made my guts ache.”
Jackfruit Feasting / by Joseph O. Legaspi
Three women dragged the spiky, bulky mass
onto a bamboo table on the side of an island
road. A raised hunting knife glinted in sunlight,
then plunged with a breathless gasp, slicing into
the unseen. To a passerby they were a curious
wall, a swarm of onlookers, barrio children
and younger women, buzzing with a rising
gleeful cadence as a matriarch busied herself
with the butchering. Surprisingly, a citrusy,
sugary scent sweetened the stranger’s face
when offered the yellow flesh like thickened
petals, licorice to the touch, he stood awed
at the monstrous jackfruit, bloodless armadillo
halved, quartered, sectioned off for the taking.
His tongue tingled ripely. This country’s foreign
to me, he continued, but I’m not foreign to it.
My First Time at Bitch / by Pamela Paek
It was within the academic year
we both turned twelve. I wore a striped
kelly green and white Lacoste shirt with green
bermudas, scuffed with rust from leaning
on the chainlink backstop. I had yet to grow
into a pre-teen body or thought or feeling.
My hair was tied up in an elastic
garnished with plastic balls and little frogs.
I scraped the dirt with my shoe, dreading
how soon I’d prove myself a loser at a new school
how these pale thin arms could barely hold the bat
and this frail body knew only shyness and the nook
of the city library with the frayed maroon carpet,
and then you shoved into my left shoulder and
faced me with your back. My outrage was thicker
than pulp from the back of a juicer. I said,
“Hey! No cuts!!” You brought up your fists,
squinted your eyes, said “wanna fight about it?”
My small eyes widened, my heartbeat on hold as
I thought you’d hit me, and I was hushed
in thought, in strategy for how to respond. You
wheeled back around and I called you a bitch
in my head, and that was the first time I ever
used that word, aloud or inside. It tasted like raw
garlic with an aftertaste of boiled squid.
My brain exacts so many of these little moments
with you because you’re the reason for my first
cuss word, because you’re the best fake bully
turned best friend, because how I love you is
to remember the details you forget and like me to retell.
#4 / by Margaret Rhee
Cut up of:
“As imperceptibly as grief” by Emily Dickinson
As imperceptibly as grief.
Your slow fade.
Narcissism is a fad.
When will reclusiveness get ‘in’?
A book cover is a face.
Open me up, feel my soft red vessels.
You were an untrained bookseller.
But you liked my taste.
To seem like perfidy,
Raise the pink flag.
When quietness distilled,
The dance party begins.
Pain, taking a walk.
Or Nature, spending with herself
The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone.
These poems are interesting.
I give you a wooden box that belongs to
A miniature ship.
I let you open my chest, to find a mirage of
The dusk drew earlier in,
As guest who would be gone.
A spider web at your foot of your bed
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
#4 / by Debbie Yee
appear as black worlds
on the ultrasound
Sister organs send up
rhythm and truth
to my tiny heart
Day 3 / Poems 3
Because it is Autumn / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston:https://instagram.com/p/5xlmWOE_n8/
. . . . . . . . thunder collapses
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The sidewalk spills
gathering like a tide of heart beats.
Softer beats: sidewalk’s slick song
is a slippery song:
. . . . . . . everything is blue, everything
is grey, everything
is notes of frantic
of this city, miles
of shadows. Sheltering
#3 / by Saehee Cho
The slow muscles and the sweetness of bodies
losing parts along the way
a cut, holding shape
Princess May / by Taey Iohe
It was a July when this leafy street
seemed a welcome entrance
to the unknown, exciting forest
My door opened to meet new souls and a
womanhood of my own
A few pieces of nice underwear folded up neatly under the bed,
a small bunch of fog flowers are tucked into the bedstead,
the smell of apple crumble teases me to wake up early on a Sunday morning
Fiery and passionate faces,
Diligent and curious legs,
Warm heart and warmer arms:
You take a life time trip to another island,
You gave birth and life to a joyful child,
Before we experience loss and holes that life holds
I treasure you as life, girls of mine
I thank you, live your full life next, neighbours
First Sonogram / by Hyejung Kook
That sinking feeling, the bottom dropping out
from your guts, as if in free fall, a shriek
growing in your throat, but you are not falling.
You are lying on an exam table, and your guts
can’t possibly dropping out because the ultrasound
wand is gently but firmly pressed up inside you
as the sonographer, fresh-faced, relentlessly cheerful,
asks “Are you sure about your due date?” “Yes,”
you say, “I am. Today I am at five weeks, six days.”
A tiny green cursor, shaped like an x, floats
in the upper right quadrant of grainy black,
and she says “I think I see the start of a yolk sac
here.” Staring intently at the screen, you see
nothing. Your heart starts racing, and you try
to take deep breaths, to keep the exhalations
longer than the inhalations, to remind yourself
that it’s early, it just might be too early
to see clearly, don’t panic, don’t panic,
don’t panic. She moves the wand, and the image
of uterus and Fallopian tubes and ovaries appears
briefly, absurdly, like the face of a stag,
a ten-point buck at least, and you wonder,
“Am I hallucinating? Am I having a baby
or not?” Schrodinger’s cat. Alive or dead.
Except you opened the box and looked inside
but didn’t understand what you saw.
At the Filipino American National Historical Society Awards Ceremony / by Joseph O, Legaspi
Two national anthems were sung
while flags, immobile, black-and-white, were projected
alternately on screen–the Philippines’ with its sun, the U.S.’s
with its stars–the switch, a flick of a MacBook, the hyphen
of our dual existence, allegiances, immigrants bridged
invisibly through time and inestimable distance, places
organic/inorganic. Despite a hurricane named Joaquin
sending wind and rain into Manhattan we come
to celebrate ourselves, how we have survived here
as a people. The musical troupe Broadway Barkada
will return after the awards are given, unprepared speeches
spill into microphone, posed photos taken on iPhones,
multiple square devices. They will sing an Avenue Q
number and an Ariana Grande sizzler exclamation marked
with gyrations, malisma, pop synch accompaniment,
whoops, howls, R&B bravura. “Bang, Bang!” Later,
a friend says, “Only at a Filipino public event
where no eyebrows were raised to a song
about ejaculation.” “It was more the MTV Video
Music Awards,” I exclaim under my umbrella
in the storm. While in the midst of the ceremony
proclamations from the mayor and the President were read,
a lifetime achievement presented to a writer befitting
a home country whose national hero was one.
We emulate like facing pages in the middle of a book,
how we fiesta, and transformed that auditorium
of a former police academy, now a College
of Criminal Justice, into our living room
where we sing and dance for and with each
other, brethren, sisters, kin in complexion
and culture, arising from one place to another,
masticating on Dunkin Donuts, sipping cheap red wine.
No More Lies / by Pamela Paek
After I flay your limbs in sheets
unwrap the crush-tangled
shrill patter of flesh of a now
limp-burned quick, curved over hangers
bucket-fill like shelled
pods the hollow of your bones
coil the loop of ropes and debris kicking you alive
and nail it in columns of dried wheatcloth
jailbreak the rules from that shell of that animal heart
tether it to sparks and ice and wings
you, no longer a starfish, just pellets mallet-crackled on cold tile
I will chase this face with rose-glowing iron
printbolt a wildcoat of welts
linger like frozen fish
melting in a forgotten paper bag.
My Invitation To Mars / by Margaret Rhee
It came folded, into my hand,
And my fingers
Upon touching it,
Crumbled, and went slack.
I wanted you first because of
Your eyes: penetrating blue with
A sadness that creased
Around the edges in a way
I felt kin to. My desires are simple.
My questions are few.
They made a new machine,
named Selena, she cranked,
Rusted, and crackled at on.
But still sang even when the
Reception erred on the frantic.
I turn the dial, even though
Mostly for me, I don’t hear anything.
All my life, the stories said
The invitation would come
Real pretty. The kind I
With the fat of my fingers.
Precision of my eyes so to
Salvage the wrapper, because
You have to give back the
Golden ticket to enter
The factory. The wrapper and chocolate
You can ration. But I learned, a
Rusted key, secret in the dirt, doesn’t
Always uncover to a garden and a
Lost cousin. Breadcrumbs may
Disappear, but the white bird can
Take you to a gingerbread house,
With a cannibal witch, a fire, and oven-stove.
There is no tale about
Mars, yet. The invitation specified
For me to write one.
But I am not sure how to begin.
Here is mine: I will never offer you bones that
Pretend to be my broken fingers.
I wanted you because you wanted
Me, and because I didn’t
Understand why you chose me.
Twitchy / by Debbie Yee
The chattering bird app silences
the insomniac’s dream
if wakefulness could vacate her.
140 characters are the briefest
breaths, jitter of taps under
right index fingers and thumbs.
I know what I am made of,
they are language and blood,
not a mix of punctuation.
Let me read you, loveliest,
the words I’d marry type to,
and not the jolt of punchlines.
Day 2 / Poems 2
#2 / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/7js3hLE_nt/?taken-by=nswinston.
#2 / by Saehee Cho
I cannot say whether I want to expedite or slow and so I stay still
looking over your shoulder
and the faithful pale drum
going sweet and soft towards a fall or a break
#3 / translation by Taey Iohe
Ability to Farewell
I will burn things into the shape of a gas
I will burn two minutes of cigarette smoke
three minutes of vapour.
Oxygens to flow to your lung.
I will happily burn you.
Did you notice the smoke which came out of your head?
Fat that disgust you burn smoothly.
Guts become a duct,
Boiling the blood.
All the birds in the world are flared in the fog;
They are migrating.
I sing for more than 2 hours,
I wash clothes for more than three hours,
I take a nap for more than 2 hours,
I meditate for more than three hours.
I see a mirage,
I love you for more than 2 hours.
I love the things that explode from your head;
The birds picked up loud crying babies.
I know as I do the endless clothes-washing,
My coat becomes air.
The thing I pull out from my pocket is a cloud,
your walking stick.
Yes. I sing endlessly,
I take a nap endlessly.
Sometimes I open my eyes,
My eyes and ears become clean.
My ability to break up becomes the maximum point
I lose some hairs.
Two minutes of cigarette smoke,
Three minutes of air.
Only for two minutes,
the smells go away.
I take off my clothes,
I wave to the neighbours.
I wave to the clothes, that fly far away.
나는 기체의 형상을 하는 것들.
나는 2분간 담배 연기. 3분간 수증기. 당신의 폐로 흘러가는 산소.
기쁜 마음으로 당신을 태울 꺼야.
당신 머리에서 연기가 피어오르는데, 알고 있었니?
당신이 혐오하는 비계가 부드럽게 타고 있는데
내장이 연통이 되는데
세상의 모든 새들이 모든 안개를 거느라고 이민을 떠나는데
나는 2시간 이상씩 노래를 부르고
3시간 이상씩 빨래를 하고
2시간 이상씩 낮잠을 자고
3시간 이상씩 명상을 하고, 헛것들을 보지. 매우 아름다워
2시간 이상씩 당신을 사랑해.
당신 머리에서 폭발한 것들을 사랑해.
새들이 큰 소리로 우는 아이들을 물고 갔어. 하염없이 빨래를 하다가 알게 돼.
내 외투가 기체가 되었어.
호주머니에서 내가 꺼낸 건 구름. 당신의 지팡이.
그렇군. 하염없이 노래를 부르다가
하염없이 낮잠을 자다가
눈을 뜰 때가 있었어.
눈과 귀가 깨끗해지는데
이별의 능력이 최대치에 이르는데
털이 빠지는데, 나는 2분간 담배 연기. 3분간 수증기. 2분간 냄새가 사라지는데
나는 옷을 벗지. 저 멀리 흩어지는 옷에 대해
#2 / by Hyejung Kook
Something about dust on a shining mirror. Worldly impurities tainting the mind.
When a man looks in a mirror, he sees himself. When a woman looks in a mirror,
she sees herself being seen.
The mind is not a mirror. The body is not a tree. The dust is immaterial.
In the bathhouse, I am grateful to recognize no one, lying naked on a table
as the ajumma brandishes a red washcloth, sloughing off the gray of dead
skin with vigorous, painful strokes.
Afterwards, I glow pink, with only the faintest trace of blood behind my knees.
Pitaya/Dragon Fruit / by Joseph O. Legaspi
Your mother Hylocereus
only at night blooms
your white cup-sized
fragrant flower that wilts
by morning if not
pollinated by your father
moth or bat in their nocturnal
mission and gathering. So,
you are of cartilaginous wings,
sonar and ultraviolet turned
heavy, hung low, orb
translucent and dragon-
scaled, both mythical
and bursting with hundreds
speckled seeds in the mouth.
Borne in South America,
beloved in Asia, you sit
atop a pyramid at a fruit
stand in a depressed
country, your skin
like pink leather,
the sheen of plastic,
flame of green fabric,
opulent purse, pretty
grenade, but also as
an animal you are
lemming, as we are
displaced and alien.
Fat Winner / by Pamela Paek
No, I didn’t challenge you
to a cheese eating contest,
or a cupcake one, but I knew
it had to be done, to goobsmack
the smug off your face and show
you what my willfulness with the heat
of the sun’s core can do.
If only there were a million dollar
prize to liquify saturated fat off my tongue.
If only you didn’t spill your drink into me.
If only I didn’t flash to the moment
the panting of my sick dog stopped,
how her whole body slacked
to the quiet still she hadn’t felt
for years. How in that second, I looked
out the window and saw a yellow butterfly
dart up with a swoop.
And you thought I was upset
you ruined my new shirt.
Notes / by Margaret Rhee
I fell in love with a poet’s daughter.
I fell in love with a doctor’s son.
I fell in love with an archaeologist.
I fell in love with a mechanic.
The former couplet compelled love, because of who loved them.
Never underestimate a mother’s tough.
I assured the poet’s daughter that her mother did indeed love her, and while she must
brace herself on the poems that may be about her, or not, I asked her to whisper to me, all
the Dickinson she knew by memory. She complied everytime.
The doctor’s son wasn’t much help in my interests in anatomy, he barely understood
Latin, but when he closed his eyes, his hands knew how to trace my body. Knowledge, I
realized, he inherited from someone.
The latter, these two, I loved because of what they loved,
Dirt and moss smeared on my neck,
Gears and grease smudged on my arms.
I am the daughter of a grocer, and a mechanic.
she, my mother, a former actress.
And he, my father, a historian.
I love salty chocolate and thick hands.
I love to read.
#2 / by Debbie Yee
This loose change of yours
keeps loosening, looser
in the pocket. They’re slipping,
tumbling around the slippery
lining. You’ll hear them all
clinking cold across
my fingertips, considerable
heat warming the copper,
the alloys, nickel, worthy metals.
To My Grandfather, On Death / by Emily Jungmin Yoon
I know no comfort in it.
Perhaps you knew it when
you bought your own gravesite
and knew the fine earth, the views.
Or earlier, in your younger days,
when you came back from war
to your dirt of your burnt hometown,
or earlier, when you saw a woman
sickle-shaped on a fence,
blood rushing to the head
of the infant on her back,
he was yet to grow all his hair,
oh he was alive–perhaps then
you knew the comfort in death,
earlier, younger than I am now.
I lie in the comfort of my bed
to think about dying.
I don’t know how to be prepared
like you were. How can you stay gone,
when hair by hair I’m closer
to death, and feel no comfort
as I lie living? As a child, I used to lie
on your side of the room on the floor
and pretend to be dead. I was so intent
on that particular stillness
that I would fall asleep,
and sometimes–sometimes not–
I would feel you lift then lay me
as you would something ancient
on the small plot of mattress
and pillow, brush the hair
away from my face.
Perhaps then I knew
the warmth in every death
I breathed, even though
I had seen no such thing.
Day 1 / Poems 1
#1 / by Cristiana Baik
This poem is accompanied by the following photograph by Nechama Winston: https://instagram.com/p/8DtrUDE_gh/
A cold flash of stars: altering wind, the direction wagoning, westeastnorthsouth: pages of leaves from tulip trees, liriodendron tulipifera: water of the harbor, this quiet place: of water, each movement’s inflection an anaerobic intonation, water’s composition fragile, elastic: motive compacted into trademarks: Just do it (™),: Think Different (™): Don’t Leave Home Without It (™): yet its hiraeth (n.), it has always been hiraeth: language having a history, an untranslatable context: a subterranean wound beneath the skin, wound’s birth from the blossoms of displacement: now anchored by breath’s rhizomic expansion, extending, regenerating our lace-mesh bodies, ever molecular, ever diaphanous, ever wind-broken: say memory or the act of remembering is the attempt to re-story the better self, the impoverished heroine and never the subversive villainess: take a moment to note the moving light on the mattress, hands on the mattress, lying next to one another, you pointing to the purple beads of rain devouring the window pane: an interior architecture, the self’s poem interior: a long stretch of thinking, a difficult language of things to come, the bone, teeth, wound of the thing: celebrating, tasting the salty brine, edging the universal sea: branches loosening like pages, looking up at singular leaves, thinking: life is too short to be minding the clash of dishes.
10.1.2015 / by Saehee Cho
I am coming to this . . . clean
bodies of water at night
the way liquid grows broad before it goes thin
My mother once described herself as
cake in a palm
it stirs me still
a tree cracked open
tapping code over a skylight
the sound growing bright in strange rooms
Day 1 / End / by Taey Iohe
Stretch the fingers
Open the slit of my eyes
Feel the toes
Twist warm fabric
Hear the engine
Stretch the duvet
Scrub a hairball stain
Get the bike out
Swallow the milk with grains
Get out the door
Breathe in the new morning
Count the blocks
Run to the stop
Touch in and out
There you go
You stepped out
The place that’s home
Revive to walk and
Crumble the crease of
Every yesterday’s despair
#1 / translation by Hyejung Kook
날이 저물거늘 나외야 할 일 없어
松關을 닫고 月下에 누웠으니
세상에 티끌 마음이 일호말도 없다.
The day ends, and again having nothing to do
I close the pine branch door and lie down under the moon─
Not even a speck of worldly worry exists in my heart.
The Last Thing I Do / by Joseph O. Legaspi
When the work day dissolves
into skin and white bones I climb
down the marble steps, seven university
flights, refusing elevators peopled
with boxed-in coworkers. I enter
dusk, a portal of sorts, feel
the bluster and hard pavement
winding down into the subway
where I cram and remain
standing inside the steel
hurtling through the city’s
underbelly, my path an “L”
eastward where the sun rises
as I do, thankfully, though I lose
that sense of gratitude as the hours
grind, and I’m left standing in motion
buried between pages as protection
from flood of faces and senses.
Then, after the rush and shove,
I find my doorstep, thankfully,
with wonder, and climb up
three rental flights, turn
door handle with a silver key.
I enter my domestic evening
as it progresses slowly
from stove to table to couch
into loving arms for fortitude,
for a reminder of a life
built for easy trials.
But before the bed is turned,
being warmed by human
presence in a house half-
abandoned, I bury
myself between blank
pages, and write.
Water and Dead Mouse Apology / by Pamela Paek
When your bare feet discovered the water on the kitchen floor
. . . which was coming from the pantry
. . . which had soaked the bottom of an empty cardboard box
. . . which you thought was leaking from the fridge
. . . I looked behind after you pulled it from the wall,
I cringed, thinking I was wrong to push the button
for cubed ice and cause you more pain.
And instead of more water
I saw a dark gray mouse
its hunched flat body sucked to the floor
its head barely a bump, and either the left eye
dehydrated into a hollow or closed before death–
. . . . . . . . I don’t know for sure
. . . . . . . . because details at five feet
. . . . . . . . blur into best guesses.
I should’ve scraped it off the linoleum
and tossed it into the yard
or ground it in the disposal
or done something with my lack
of disgust for once. But
I just said, “there’s a dead mouse”
and your face crumpled
like a paper bag, unlike
the way I fold each one
into its preset creases
into its boring origami
I then press half over half.
My knees bent me to the floor
to prove my fault in this. I wanted
to wipe the unwanted from the floor
and my eyes away. You didn’t need
more to deal with. I tucked in
my chin and scurried to my room, muttering,
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The Year Before I Left For Mars / by Margaret Rhee
The moon’s song, cupped by the plane’s hum
Your breathing slighted the mourning.
We lay, as the sand hooked
into the concave of our backs.
There is another line here, but I don’t know
where to locate it. I could have
looked at the moon,
But like you, I searched for meteors instead.
You taught me what they look like,
by verbal description, but
characteristically, I kept missing them.
Because I’m not so good with language,
nor instructions. I’m clumsy
with my feet and hands.
That night, I learned on my own, you have to take
it in, the entire dark sky, (like a landscape painting)
(a movie screen), then let the frame blanket
over your body. Watch, because meteors
disappear in a glimpse, in the cock of your neck,
in my eyelash flutter.
One by one, then another,
and by the end, we are greedy.
We clasp our hands,
and gulp in the night sky,
suffocated and strayed.
Market and Fremont / by Debbie Yee
The intersection is jittering
with spice and overemployment
Never have you seen coffee
as hyphenated as this
You know here the mash-up
of ikura, sushi rice and a burrito
This tongue and pair of boots
can withstand a sudden downpour
if that is what precipitation
calls itself these days.
This is a criss-cross of opposites
the way you’ll strike up conversation
with a friendly miser. Find the cobbler
upon exiting the trolley, just so easy.
You’ll recognize me soon enough,
rolling in on myself under shiny foil wrap.
After You Suggest Liposuction / by Emily Jungmin Yoon
I must have been the shape
of someone who is cold,
pulling her hair toward the face,
the body sipping on itself
like a drain, shrinking,
only its fat and all its abundance
actually didn’t go anywhere.
That night I pushed into the tub
to stay for what seemed like hours,
after the water cooled and I looked
at myself obscured in it and said
I love my body I love my body.
Even then, I loved you dearly.