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Graveyard Shift: Two Poems from Su Hwang’s Bodega

Unearth the map of storied constellations. / Vibe the unknown. Wager that fear is not our common dialect.

By Su Hwang
Poetry | Bodega, Poetry Tuesday, Su Hwang, poem
October 8, 2019

Leisure World
Seal Beach, CA, 2016

Behold: elderly white men gunning golf carts
to the clubhouse to have coffee & pastries

with other solo men—those whose wives
are dead. As much as it makes me grin to see

these motorized thingamajigs, something is dismal
about this place: overall vibes of easy containment.

How palpably we eventually acquiesce. Abutting
the Pacific, cookie cutter vistas & ranch-style

homes appear suspect: healthy desert lawns,
shriveled sunflower palms, cliques of garden

gnomes in clandestine banter & the occasional
wind chime tinkling birdsong. An axis seems

permanently off—but maybe, I’m not old enough
yet. Recall: The Truman Show, the Jim Carrey movie

about a fictionalized world within a fictionalized
world—utopian dystopia unbeknownst to the lone

protagonist—flint of the apocalypse on the tip
of everyone’s tongue as empty planes bawl overhead.

Synchronized wails of gulls & alkaline gusts strike
walls the hue of seashells. Outside: strip malls

& naval exoskeletons seize the terrain. We’re born
into some form of wreckage. Each turnover:

a burial. This, the one spectacular flaw of human
existence. So haven’t they earned permission to fade

in a bubble where everything is a stone’s throw
away: basic amenities deemed elaborate luxuries

as if granted membership into some secret society,
even though they’ve never taken a vacation.

Arthritic & near dissolution—savoring freedom paid
in blood, sweat & tears—their version of the good

ole American Dream: this is all I’ve ever wanted.


Graveyard Shift

Alchemy at the indecent hour, nothing is what it seems. By the by, matchbooks from nameless dives emerge as diminutive epiphanies. Catcalls: customary in a city that never sleeps. Desire braids fury.  Each flint is a key to a  would-be flame.  Flourish of smoke escapes  like ribbons pirouetting.  Gilded by vanities of youth when sleep  seems vulgar, ego flirts with inevitability—the underbelly. Horror a carnival mirror: marbled human distortions.

Instead, imbibe the medicine that we are divine beings worthy of serendipity—peace, at the very least. Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Shiva, Gaia, magical bloom, et cetera—we pray to the same source—the cosmic  undertow.  Knowing,  they say,  is half the battle, but when  will we practice what we preach? Leave it to us to fashion diurnal disasters.

Matter  of  fact:  nothing here  is  solid.  Not our rickety bones,  nor  our  mortgaged   homes.   Oxygen,   hydrogen,   nitrogen,  carbon—  we  are  the stuff of magma—starseeds. Perhaps in sleep, we can render  ourselves  sacred.  Quell  the  notion  that some  are destined  to suffer while others revel  in riches.  Remember,  abundance is  found within.

Some call it a kind of verisimilitude to subsist without pleasure—simple pat on the  shoulder or  a  half-hearted embrace when  the  body rings electric. To  know  the  depths  of  loneliness,  rub two  sticks  together  at  the  bottom of  a  murky basin  for a  spark that  may  never  happen.  Unearth the  map  of  storied  constellations.  Vibe the unknown. Wager that fear is not our common dialect. Xenophobic tendencies only yield calamity. Yellow, black, brown, indigo, crystal, rainbow: such majestic  frequencies.  Zoom  further  out to commune with the moon before heralding our extinction.


From Bodega by Su Hwang (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Su Hwang. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.