04 February 2013

Other People's Poems

from Fable of the Last Untouched Town

A storm raged for a week and our town was erased
by hills of snow.
Afar, our one story chambered apartments
look like concrete harmonicas. It's easy for snow to swallow us.

But after the storm, a gigantic glacier appeared inside
the king's most cherished open-air stadium.
It took up the whole arena.

Our leader launched a campaign.
Defunct factories suddenly produced heat lamps
and they strung a ceiling of scalding tubed bulbs over the stadium,
but the glacier only glistened.

So he demanded legions of laborers to come
chip away at this offensive glacier.
I was drafted to help.

When I arrived, I was awed, I was so awed, I began to cry
but when someone questioned my tears,
I said I was crying for our king and cursed
the imperialist-plotted ice.

The sheer sapphire cliffstone towered so high,
the whole ocean seemed frozen inside it.
Under its shellacked panes of ice were marblings of color
I'd long forgotten: tangerine, topaz,
canary and rose.

Like fluorescing cuttlefish,
the colors pulsed, swirled and bloomed
into contracting rings. The ice breathed.

We slowly chipped away with our picks.
As soon as we gathered a pile,
the wind burst in and scattered the powdery snow far
into the air like spores.

One laborer accidentally swallowed ice
and it caused him to hallucinate, blither in another language.
He was immediately exterminated.
We were forced to wear masks.

One day, I decided to steal some.
I pocketed one grain.

The snow glowed bluely in my hovel.
My little lamp.
Then one night I don't know why I swallowed it.

And this is what I saw.

- Cathy Park Hong

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