Two Poems by Cathy Park Hong

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Engines within the Throne

 

We once worked as clerks

            scanning moth-balled pages

into the cloud, all memories

outsourced except the fuzzy

            childhood bits when

 

I was an undersized girl with a tic,

they numbed me with botox.

            I was a skinsuit

of dumb expression, just fingerprints

over my shamed

 

            all I wanted was snow

to snuff the sun blades to shadow spokes,

muffle the drum of freeways, erase

            the old realism

 

but this smart snow erases

            nothing, seeps everywhere,

the search engine is inside us,

the world is our display

 

            and now every industry

has dumped cubicles, desktops,

fax machines into developing

            worlds where they stack

them as walls against

 

what disputed territory 

            we asked the old spy who drank

with Russians to gather information 

the old-fashioned way,

 

now we have snow sensors,

            so you can go spelunking

in anyone’s minds, 

let me borrow your child

 

thoughts, it’s benign surveillance,

            I can burrow inside, find a cave

pool with rock colored flounder,

and find you, half-transparent

with depression.

 

A Wreath of Hummingbirds

 

I suffer a different kind of loneliness.

From the antique ringtones of singing

wrens, crying babies, and ballad medleys,

my ears have turned

to brass.

 

They resurrect a thousand extinct birds,

Emus, dodos, and shelducks, though some,

like the cerulean glaucous macaw,

could not survive the snow.  How heavily

they roost on trees in raw twilight.

 

I will not admire those birds,

not when my dull head throbs, I am plagued

by sorrow, a green hummingbird eats me alive

with its stinging needle beak.

 

Then I meet you.  Our courtship is fierce

in a prudish city that scorns our love,

as if the ancient laws of miscegenation

are still in place.  I am afraid

I will infect you

 

after a virus clogs the gift economy:

booming etrade of flintlock guns sag.

Status updates flip from we are all

connected to we are exiles.

What bullshit

 

when in that same prudish city,

they have one exact word to describe the shades

of their sorrow, when they always sit together

and eat noodles during white days

of rain, in one long table,

though not all.

 

As a boy, my father used to trap

little brown sparrows, bury them in hot coal,

and slowly eat the charred birds alone

in the green fields, no sounds,

no brothers in sight.

 

Holiest are those who eat alone.

Do not hurt them, do not push them, insult them,

do not even stare at them, leave

them to eat alone, in peace.