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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

Tragedy?” Woken
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

Carnivorous.” Yes,
A carnivorous

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).

 

 

 

 

AI v.2.1

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

 

 

 

 

Lineage

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.

 

 

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