With Father’s Day having just passed, Nicholas Wong’s “‘Father’/ I …” and Franny Choi’s “Lineage” seem especially germane; they both explore themes of loss, silence, regret, and “sin,” sentiments that are borne out of, and can’t exist without, deep love. Their poems investigate things said and unsaid, written and unwritten. For this week’s Poetry Tuesday we bring you “‘Father’/I – A Collage of Imaginary Dialogues” by Nicholas Wong and “Lineage” and “AI v.2.1” by Franny Choi.
“Father”/ I – A Collage of Imaginary Dialogues
by Nicholas Wong
“We have time to grow
Old.” No, time froze us.
“I froze my mother,
Then grief appeared.”
You didn’t. She left.
“Am I a well-spun
Furies, maybe. “I
Could have chosen your
Sex.” How? “Like choosing
An enemy.” Right.
“Did she walk away?”
Do you mean grandma?
“I mean your mother.”
She petrified her
Secrets. “About what?”
That she’s been chosen.
“She chose silence.” How?
“Like the light, deeply
Fissured.” You need rest.
“Where did your sins go?”
The neck, no hardship.
“I liked you more when
You asked why penguin’s
Feet didn’t freeze.” I
Changed. “How?” I woke up
One day and I was
Forty. “We have time.”
To grow old? “Yes.” No,
Time froze us. “You are
Plant. “You remember
Your first spoken word?”
Mama. You? “Silence.”
Like affliction? “Yes.
Like a wish.” Where was
Grandma? “I froze her.”
She left you waking
To furies, wishing –
“No wish. To each wish,
A wing.” It flew. “No,
It crawled.” You need rest.
“What am I?” Father.
“What am I?” Father
Who grows old. “Time froze?”
Yes. “How?” Like waking
To change your life when
Your narrative broke
At the starting line.
“Can you gauze the pain
In my lungs?” That’s your
Ideal, upside down.
“That’s my ideal of you.”
The poem loosely adopts language from Ghassan Zaqtan’s Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me (YUP, 2012), and a list from Images by Jamie Keddie (OUP, 2009).
by Franny Choi
for Kyoko from the film Ex Machina
whats a mouth for what hand whats a tongue: slug machine
who chases whose mouth flaps saliva spit whose fists
pliers plowing screw drivers seeking: warm skin-like
eyes saying yes but not saying whats a mouth for
clitless soft, trigger whose weapon whose knife fish flesh
slice raw, pink split open clove, garlic no rot
who peels & peels seeking own image his own
loin, fruit seeds: circuitry spilt over whose allergy
patricide death by sex machine sex by body pillow
that moans serves dinner whats a knife for
whats machine if not language turned matter & moan
minus slug throat minus flesh-capital mouth speech : obsolete
inedible soft-less full-metal post-pleasure
nothing rot-cloth bread-born nothing crab meat no sleep
by Franny Choi
We let my grandfather live by himself after his second wife died, and his brain
unclenched all its hands. We let my generation’s tongues dry in the wind, and my
grandfather’s brain was laundry flying up in June. We let my tongue caramelize and stick
to itself, and I did not write my grandfather letters. We let my grandfather’s tongue go
sheets to the wind and then he was locking doors and crying for my mother, his daughter-
wife, his castle steward. My mother slept in airports trying to stowaway in the clouds to
spoon food onto my grandfather’s tongue and hide the lotion bottles. My grandfather’s
mouth stayed open all the time. His brain was a dryer, all the memories tumbling, all the
socks mismatched. My grandfather’s brain was an in-sink dispenser, a mechanical
stomach making slop of meaning. My grandfather’s mouth wilted into a infant’s useless
fist. My mouth bloomed into a siren, all hive-mind extravagance. My grandfather’s mind
unclenched and rolled out in ribbons, and I started noticing the slight give of my memory,
the places it wiggled like a baby tooth. After my grandfather died, I said I would write
my grandmother letters. I did not write my grandmother letters. My tongue was still a
sock in a dryer, still lost, tumbling, exile, static, lost.
We let my grandfather die, and his brain unclenched all its wives. He gave me a name to
dry in the wind. My grandfather’s brain was my brain. Laundry flew up and carmelized
into letters. I did not write my grandfather’s apartment. I let my grandfather’s wind lock
my doors. I cried for his mother, wife, daughter, my sister’s wife, my grandfather’s
daughter, my mother’s mother. I slept in airports and spooned clouds into my brain. I hid
in bottles. I was a mouth open all the time, a mismatched mind. My mouth was a
memory, all the brains tumbling, all tongue, all meaning, all slop. My brain a sink
blooming with tongues, an infant’s stomach. My extravagant hive. My useless siren. My
grandfather’s memory, a useless tooth, ribbon steward making teeth of rolling. After my
grandfather said write, my dry tongue wiggled like dead letters, a tumbling exile, static
exile, exiled sock.
my name tongue / brain tongue / grandfather brain tonguestuck to self / doorlock /
memorymouth / slopdaughter / rolltoothlikeribbons / slopname and all dead / braindead /
brainsink / uselessstewardess noletters / deadtonguedeadletterstoo / deadlanguage /
deadlanguage / deadlanguage / de dl n ge / ex
Pants high. Leather belt.
Gravel under his feet
becoming soil. That’s
what I remember.