20111123

Arhm Choi


THE PAINTING


I.

Grandmother saves even the toilet paper,
the yellow turning into crisp leaves.
She plays old when we ask where is
her son.

Ten minutes of small talk with this woman is like gulping
down Spam with no time to spurt out breath.
I sit on the edge of the couch with arms crossed
when she tries to capture us still
in a photo. Baby sister smiles because she has chance
cards to give out.

Fifteen minutes now, and dad still isn’t at crazy’s apartment.
Baby wonders what time stubble grows back on face,
and what men smell like when late and nervous.

Thirty minutes with crazy, just women in the room
again, and I let America finish giving me my rage,
let fury cut a way to the door

not daughters who can be fooled again,
leaving before we see the wreck of darkness
our post-script curses elbow into unsuspecting ribs
as we wrestle our way out the door/
out the door again/
I sure know how to clobber my hip
against a door to smash it close so egos bruise

II.

The things we are handed and try our whole lives to disown

III.

Not even a photo, or a letter,
my mother inherited only one thing from her parents:
a painting of two people walking down a country road,
turned to each other with mouths open
like the pond on the right was open or the green open to bring the rain
begging on its knees. We drag

the painting to the cab, grandmother grabbing
the body of it she let the taunting sun turn anorexic,
ribs unable to hold onto its fat when the sun leeches
out the paint, all except the black of road—crazy has been staring
at only road this whole time
—she knocks at the window
of the cab in nursery rhymes
on crack, clutching her chest,
tears like badly placed stickers on her cheeks.

Even crazy people I despise can make me soften
like a peach at the bottom of a bag.

The ribs jab our knee caps, no soft hip to lean into
when all four of us cram in the back seat.
The cab driver, all male worried about progeny with advice, says
you can’t cut her off forever. Whatever happened
can’t be so bad you won’t see her again
.

Mo is the only one with Korean advanced enough to say
there is only so much the heart can take.

On the blue CD player crazy and her son gave me to make up
for 6 xmases and 7 birthdays, I play Eminem so loud
the trunk in my ears bump and make that plastic
shake that cheap systems twang. I don’t even
skip the skit about killing Kim, imagining her son’s face a mix of Picasso
and tires slashed.

The amusement park out the window is closed
due to the threat of lightning;
kids die every year from letting their hearts ride
in air high enough to let strike
find its way to blood with fat of donuts and soda inside
that blaze and flare in the smallest of goodbyes.

On the laptop crazy’s son bought instead of 11 years
of paper and ink, I don’t send out an email on his birthday:
I have a better correspondence with the failed
delivery writer anyways.

IV.

Mother stares at the painting in the hotel room,
closes her eyes to remember what the sun took.

We leave it here she says, and walks out in her slippers.



Arhm Choi is a graduate student of poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. She believes in the power of the spoken word and is working to bridge academic and performance poetry. Her work with youth has taken her to teach workshops at the YWCA of Asheville, Youth Alive! in Detroit, MI, and various high schools and colleges around the country. Her work has been featured in The Canadian Theater Review, Peal, and No Comment. She competed in the National Youth Poetry Slam in 2004 and has performed at the Bowery Poetry Club, the historic Michigan Theater, Asheville Wordfest, and many other venues and schools. She is currently working on a book about the inheritance of cultural alienation, divided identities, and allegiances to ideas both traditional and radical.
 
 
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1 Comments:

Blogger Janet Jones said...

Captures perfectly the message that "there is only so much the heart can take". Beautiful work.

4:18 AM  

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