Poetry / August 2008 (Issue 4)

Two Poems

by Lee Herrick

If We Are

What we eat, then I am the raw jellied crab
in a small room in Insadong, Korea.

I am pork browning on the barbecue
the lavender bud under the tongue

I am you and not you, the document
of black ink and number sequences

I am stacks of ham
and the dead scorpion in Beijing,

the squid in Incheon, all the blossoms
from the tree in full bloom,

the trees and the bark, the wood
fire, the cold beer,

the fish I want to be but cannot be,
how I am not myself

but I am my skin, my hair,
slivers of black moon like ice.

Spectral Questions of the Body

When I imagine my mother’s body, spectral
questions float: how the cage
of bone protects the heart, how she sounded
near death once or if bird cried
a song near the river.  I imagine it like gel
in a body of water, a jellyfish in the sea,
a gasping squid.

                                  If I could touch the body,
I would go for the neck
where air meets air, despair swapped for light
flashes, cusps of cut lavender,
cups of the silkworms you may have loved,
the new breathing.

                                   This is how I imagine
your body: brown and surfacing, a changing shape
of grace and light to mirror
the foreboding chant of my own death,
or the true loss of a child in Korea
who goes West to become a child in America,
full of spectral images distracting him from
all the Korean trees, the clashing bodies,
all the animals and angels calling out his name.

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