In frilly tutu—pastel like Easter Eggs—cornflower, seafoam, periwinkle, Mint—adorable, dainty, fragile. Spinning Toile doing the cancan down the street While cradling an infant doll named Daisy May, her synthetic braids matted with A smidgen of dirt, sticky toffee. How darling To be this darling. Rerun emblems of girlhood: Saccharine sweet cheeks like Pink Ladies. Not the rascal scurrying into imaginary woods Chasing after starlings & bunny rabbits. Think: More Mary, less Laura Ingalls—beautifully Dutiful, so mild-mannered! To be picture Perfect (handmaid in the making) for me An impossible feat. I was, after all, no violin Or piano virtuoso, merely third chair at Flute, zero scholarships to medical school. Too non-committal to be Goth or punk, just Riddled with suburban angst prattling on The phone behind a locked door with signs That read: Knock Before You Enter & Private Zone Ahead. Totally unremarkable. Certainly, progeny Unworthy of martyrdom—to think the many Years I held my poor parents’ lives for ransom.
open your fist like a nesting flower picture dahlia, hyacinth roused in time-lapse lightning bolts captured in a bevy of pickling jars cup calyx to leaf through anther & filament to a part called stigma, & stem new replicas to hang around your neck like garlands & gorge your cheeks full of anthems
When my mother cries, Hey Zeus! it cues him to resume sweeping. I giggle picturing the Greek god of marble, muscle & thunder. His eyes remain lowered when I ask where he was born, where he calls home, as my legs swing below the counter—the store totally free of customers. He bridles, suddenly in my crosshairs: visible. Mere sliver of a man. Tells me in broken English that he walked a long way, across many borders (I’m just a child, couldn’t possibly fathom). He misses his mother—smuggled in clutching her picture. It’s been a dozen years but knows she is still alive from signed trails of Western Union receipts. He sends her everything, works two other menial jobs, lives with several migrant men in Harlem. Watching him sweep, I peer over at my mother whose shoulders are hunched stocking shelf after shelf—wasting away within a five-foot radius, but our distance seems to span an ocean. I never ask any real questions, she never tells me more than I need to know—having built impenetrable barriers. Inadvertently locked in a vow of silence, there is no arguing, we are all rotten to each other.
1. verb [sojourn; something like a river] It is occupation To assume the position: transport, Heed, baptize, sever, feed. Mouth forever an opening, ending. Ligaments hewed from bone, splinters Lodged into heels—we’re inherently Refugees. It is elegant Carrying only what you need. Do not mistake hyphenation for lack Of discipline or vestigial claims as Surrender. We’re told to fear large bodies Of water—how easily we are made To submit. Even in the womb, we seek Exit strategies, wrestling the murk, No matter our pigmentation or creed. Supremacy is a state Of inadequate psyches, dizzied by Desire to accrue more seeds for each Harvest: futile races to the moon. Duality forms confluence: frenzy. Twin helixes transmute native Tidal flats—broad & impossibly long; Our shared carbon footprint Made digestible, easier to swallow.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Su Hwang was raised in New York, then called the Bay Area home before transplanting to the Midwest, where she received her MFA in poetry from the University of Minnesota. Su is recipient of the inaugural Jerome Hill Fellowship in Literature, the Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize, writer-in-residence fellowships at Dickinson House and Hedgebrook, among others. BODEGA, Su’s debut poetry collection, is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions in October 2019. She teaches creative writing with the MN Prison Writing Workshop and is the co-founder of Poetry Asylum. Su currently lives in Minneapolis.