EJ Koh is a poet and an author. Her work has been published in TriQuarterly, Southeast Review, La Petite Z
ine, Columbia Review, and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize in Poetry, appeared in Time Out New York, Flavorwire and was named #2 of 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013. She has an MFA from Columbia University, and her first novel, Red (Collective Presse), was released earlier this year. You can find out more on her blog.
Ingredients for Memories That Can Be Used As Explosives
I am not sad anymore; I am on the rooftop of my life
cheering until my body of hallways opens, jade and steaming.
When a pope dies tradition says to hit his head with a silver
hammer 3 times to see if he’s alive: koong koong koong koong.
I’ve been so many popes. The shells of laughing are cooked.
Open the door and let them know, I am not sad anymore.
Not once carrying my lunch pail soul with bright green fingernails—
Can a soul be excited to tears? That’s the one time a soul is excited.
I am together—feel my forehead—I am young
but I always forget what I meant to say; except I am alive!
and I will not jump from here because the wind is coming.
It has a beak and a tooth, and has heard I am not sad anymore.
Apology for Ache
Autumn, in the office, my son warns me,
You can’t want to die.
You’re either dead already or living.
Pick one or the other.
I look at him and he is the other.
I pray by the chancel stairs.
Nothing here but the floor marks
of a missing statue. The votive candlewick
barely burning, but burning.
I always dream, pushing hands
into my coat pockets. Cold fingers
nip the lint of childhood.
Cooking without knowing
the chopping board will splinter.
With one cut I pry the spine
from a dead fish and leave its shivering eye.
To My Mother Kneeling in the Cactus Garden
For a month I tried to think of what to say,
how many times you’ve swept a kitchen knife
across your neckline and said, This is how
you end a marriage, how many more wicks you light
for god. I could tell by your eyes you’ve never
seen him. What would you call the feeling
of abandon and caution and relief that keeps me
tethered to you? Let me be the husband
you prayed for, the son you wanted, or mother
who held you. I’ll build your new patio swing
and fold your coffee linens, wash your hardened
feet in warm water. To me you have become a prison
of its own light. I’ll grow greens and the parsley
you love and wrap them into cold sandwiches.
I will place them where you can reach with ease.