for Major and Didi Jackson
There’s no suffering among dandelions,
in the way the corral gate swings open
or how the gears stay up late
to keep the wrists of the dead company.
And there’s no suffering in silt or the word marsh
or in the quadratic equation, which scurries
beneath the floorboards of my thought
like a mouse drunk on plum wine.
There’s no suffering in the steam backlit
and seared into the world at an early hour
with the horse as its guide. And there’s no suffering
in lag bolts or u-joints, nor in the sexed-up shadows
of grain elevators. There’s no suffering
in the verb itself—to suffer—which, in my kin’s tongue
means charged by the sight of an owl,
let loose from a barbed hook, returned
to the reservoir of the mind.
Today, I’m a chemical emulsion
that burns light onto paper, a three-cent stamp
honoring a woman whose name
is cloth spread throughout a meadow,
mortar setting up in a constant breeze.
The mountain air takes a handful of memories
from my chest, spreads them before me
like pewter figurines until I feel
like a tube of lipstick with an erotic name
or the long vowels in a wave’s trough,
all hum and echo. Friend, I’m both
a keyhole in a star and the key chained
to a young boy’s neck. I’m the thistle and its bloom,
father rack and pinion son, gravel and its dust.
And here, before you now, I’m on a measure
of consonants gnawing the green roots
from a blinded moon, where I say to hell with kings
and jeweled blood, for in this kingdom
suffering shall be, but never be invented.
Copyright © 2022 by Michael McGriff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 2, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
The life of a garment worker in midtown Manhattan.
She worked as seamstress in the sweatshops of New York City.
Whose mother is not the love of their life?
She pushed her lunch on co-workers
from Russia, Togo, Haiti, Dominican Republic.
They disliked the sugar fried anchovies.
They saw the nimbus on each fish
and politely or raucously declined. The cavernous
spaces of her mind. Having studied graphic design
at Duksung Women’s College, Dobong-gu, Seoul,
what else was she going to do but write a novel.
Staring at sea windows, she scrawled and chalked
in her head. Drong of eternal absence. An expert
on the social history of the Staten Island Ferry,
she confided in me the act of crying was a privilege.
What type of person leaves a near full can of
coconut water on the bleachers? You have to be
happy in order to weep, or sob. I can teach you,
she said to me. If you can hold a pencil, I can teach you
how to draw. But I’ve known people who have
no hands. Who have no fingers.
Copyright © 2022 by Haesong Kwon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.