The People Build / Potions of Relative Success / Sonnet

By Cathy Park Hong


The People Build


Praise the pipes rising from earth,
rustdappled pipes shooting up without building’s bodice,
like copper beanstalks blooming
to boughs of tubs, boweled sinks, budded spigots
hurling, curving,
like a giant’s digestive tract of white porcelain organs.

Mitish boys shrugged off their regimental reds,
Degged with sweat,
They clampered up them pipes to sing, shower
Squirt fawn brack water at each other from deathly heights
Pashing water over their grimy faces,

But smelters stalked & sawed off stems to melt pipes
down to bed coils & copper skillets,
So a hacked-at spindly pipe timbered down,
Felling with it a falling bathing boy who cried
& cracked his ribs.

So then the boys grabbed the sharpest rocks,
Before they jimmied up those pipes & hurled them
at the smelters but the smelters took revenge,
sawed all their aerial tubs down,
when they went home to nap & sup,

Til’ there was nothing left,
Of the water park,
But dews of boy blood & smelters bruises.

Potions of Relative Success


A hundred of us work in the old re-education school packing & lighting gun powder so they detonate their flares against stenciled canvas. The firecracker’s snapping skids leave behind a charred cave painting: A runaway ox, a mare, a burnished chestnut whale. Our master is cursing at us that our last painting is not at all a gliding hawk. But master, we have never even seen a hawk. We download images for models but it’s never quite right: a glass etching on an old coin vase, a wind up toy hawk, an old Cold War cartoon. At midnight, we build fire balloons out of newsprint. We light its four corners & it lofts into the air like a zeppelin that disperses into glittering worms. When we are ready, we will use our master’s secrets & build our own enterprise of gun powder paintings. We will put him out of business. But now, we look for marvelous distractions. Once a fruit truck tipped over, toppling melons & a swarm of pale green moths formed a sward to sip the fruit’s slither. We ran out & we watched, astonished.



I dip larks in red ink & watch them flock
into a wimpling sun of thread vesseled blood.
A world apart not among men, though when I wake,
I’m smeared with my bunkmate’s hocking sputum.
Milita women, they like uniforms, not gay dresses,
He recites while pissing into my empty noodle bowl.
My hands are unkempt. They gash blood.
Last night, I lurched like a mechanical bull in a late night saloon,
Til a cop prodded my torpid ass with a baton.
Today, we machine stitch Polythene nets which travel far,
Sau Paolo, Miami, Montreal, even an Innuit will use our net
to catch a glorious seal from ice nettled melt.
Will this water purify, will it Godskin?

These poems first appeared in MAKE #9, “Myth, Magic, & Ritual.”

Cathy Park Hong’s first book, Translating Mo’um, was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press. Her second collection, Dance Dance Revolution, was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize and was published in 2007 by WW Norton. Hong is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Village Voice Fellowship for Minority Reporters. Her poems have been published in A Public Space, Paris Review, Poetry, American Letters and Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Jubilat, and other journals, and she has reported for The Village Voice, The Guardian, Salon, and Christian Science Monitor. She now lives in New York City and is an Assistant Professor at Sarah Lawrence College. Her third book, Engine Empire is due to be released in May 2012.

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