March 28, 2009
inexplicable walls—uncooperative roses
—the black out—the sirens—air cracking with each rushed
inhale—this is the waiting—cross legs and hard concrete
steps—skin punctured on crooked nails pounded into
stained planks halfway—rusted heads stuck out like
the dull backs of whales in this placid ocean—for what
for what what—the armageddon—only the unreachable
punishment meant to cleanse the simple deeds of our regret
—counting the flies around the dog’s bloodied numb ears—
black and red in the standing cling of the too long day—
unable to cut off the lost pieces of his body that can
no longer give him pain—the flies the flies—wings charged
with lightning tapping red rivers inside dead continents—
they have filled too many barrels with the weight
of the living—and the storm that finally comes—
unprepared—droughts more important than needing—they
fly away or imagined to be so quick to disappear
—he no longer bangs into new interruptions—inexplicable
walls—the calls he tries to catch with broken ears—choosing
still stoic and quiet in the rain that falls from the one
direction that he hasn’t tried—tail sinking in such paced
measures—not unlike my father burying fish guts around his
uncooperative roses—the water rising in the grass of his
feet—drowned marks of his life in light—he chooses still—
he chooses to sink into the ocean he never imagined he could
touch—look dad—look—i am no longer afraid to swim—or
is that just the crushing of my teeth inside this mouth
too tight for repenting—stoic quiet in the storm unaware
that the tremors on his haunches rising through the knots
of neglected fur give him away—howling what he remembers
to be the sound of his sister’s name
—as i hide my hands in the water—but i am found i am found
again—in this shelter of black disaster i have clutched—
and painted my face with bare knuckle punches until i was
more transparent than american black—i am found in the storm
that won’t give me reprieve from the calling—the calling i
follow into the water—squat and ready—he takes enough
steps to bury his head in my legs—praying to god my hands
are strong enough to squeeze him to eden—promise promise me
or is it just the thunder—yes—night stagger and great
burnings—it is gentle to kill in misery—i promise
regardless having misheard prayers before—that it will be
still it will be silent it will be cold tiles and scents we
will never forget—and the hair on my leg moving then still
against the wind against the last exhale of his nose
—against this fan hung centered on white ceiling spinning—
drunk wilderbeast—and his ghost his scabbed ghost swaying
blind and sweet above our naked bodies—my wife dear wife
sleeping in a pillow of angry mothers and misdirected
fingers igniting more than this mount of dead dragons—
shielding her crying soul that was once saved with a skinny
raised hand—with a turned body—with the expanse
of her back that knows no broken lines—knowing knowing—
isn’t knowing more than we were ever meant to handle—dragging
my nails over her skin waiting waiting for the storm of the blind
—as i get off the bed trying not to fall—seeing my leg
beneath that i can no longer feel—the slowness of buckling
into one’s own burial—the sad fragment of some truncated
wish—i know it is so—loving myself for the first time
—the scar under my ring of gold—shedding blood again
on the page—to pretend that it is just my words that are dying.
we rub our eyes at the light
and spit too close to our scuffed shoes.
we don’t know what to do with our hands,
careful about everything that breathes
when we can’t see.
we push out our chests and fill ourselves
with the burning and smile.
it’s easier to greet each other
over common disasters,
telling small lies about the love we seek.
an old man kneels on the sidewalk
bowing to a half of a brick slammed down
on day old noodles and rice puked drunk,
saying he’d like a roof too
so he could duck his answered prayers.
an ash falls on my wife’s nose.
it looks like it’s waiting for something.
i reach out and flick it off with my finger,
then watch my skin begin to disappearbeneath all the ash all the remains of burnt things.
it’s getting closer. i smell it in the smoke now—
that love letter my father wrote hunched over
against the wall with a turned back and dirty nails
until his life became too embarrassing
to share with his children.
the man gets up.
this morning, covered in ash,
we are becoming colorless,
remembering how thirsty we are as we breathe the smoke,
learning in the fire
to pray for a cup of water.
this writing about the terror
falling through cracks
gaping on this porch made of bondo
and loose leaves with no symmetry,
chicken-scratches on god’s prison wall
counting off days of our thirty eighth year,
counting to alpha,
counting to jerusalem,
counting to my third finger dotted with blue ink.
they lie, they lie on the evidence
of my misguided journey—
a dead roach, mosquitoes just landed,
the three dogs,
our baby unborn,
dad [calling him dad here],
that tiny woman [no longer petite,
with a knack for crochet whom i know as mother].
there are others too off on the side,
on the poison oak
and other shrubbery too particular to be identified,
lovers not so fresh dead
that i have started calling them carcasses.
i am from that country on the cold gray
step down into the kitchen where
mother stood with her back
curved out toward me. i leave
them there because i can only hate
the living and to touch them would
mean i would die. i leave them
there because my fingers can’t
hold more than sticky keyboards, stuck
between a and s, between y and u, between
x and childhood fantasies of rape, between
the comma and regretting, between one
letter and the next and all the ones that brick
nonsense and shame.
the open blinds.
a smile in frames.
damsel and plastic and blue blanket winters.
my bleeding stomach.
my father trapped in my spine.
acupuncture will save him.
or at least let him breathe inside my posture.
eden lies to me.
i will eat the apple this time.
the black arrow of new best
before the complete text of mourning.
electra electra and
wearing a striped tie across the brooklyn bridge.
we took pictures of the water
and our minutes of joy,
and there was no chance for tired feet
or turning back
because patsy grimaldi waited under
the bridge, on the other side,
on the other side, on the other side of failure.
i am back and not alone, this hand
on my right shoulder,
the upside down when i tilt my head back,
backlight making her shadow,
like that dream of hell when mother shook me
awake on gramercy drive,
the last time i heard my name.
the last i heard it.
god is taking away my hearing
as i shuffle these numbed feet
once more west on the sparkles
of a west hollywood boulevard
through a tuesday night silence
past two boys with clean hair,
past corpses of divinity,
and decent words uttered
past schubert and beatles in the back room
of my baby’s carcass
past yellow teeth shaman riptides of santa monica
and virgin mary past this ocean i once skipped
with one gleeful bounce
past my father’s house frozen in the hands
of my ghost past god’s words scribbled
by grandma while she lay on her left side
waiting to die past my skin past my name
past my sins past washington square
and the girl bleeding in the fountain
past nuyorican and the lies of the poets
past that fenced place in downtown
that is no longer a place past the past
past black fences past brown grass
past dug holes past this moment of panic
when i am terrified to know the next
and the last.
Chiwan Choi is a writer, editor, teacher, and publisher. He self-published his first book, dogfuzz on the asscrack/time out of space, a collection of poems and short stories, in 1999, literally selling it out of the trunk of his Buick for food-money and trading it with bartenders for free drinks.
He has remained dedicated to his life as a poet, publishing another collection of poems, lo-fidelity lovesongs, a spoken word CD, boomerangs, and several chapbooks. His poems and essays have also appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including ONTHEBUS, Esquire, and American Book Jam in Tokyo. He is a regular in the Los Angeles literary circuit, often invited as a featured poet at readings at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, the legendary Beyond Baroque in Venice, and even the Los Angeles Central Library (from which he was banned for the slightly risque content of his poems).
After a two-year stint in New York, where he received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School, Chiwan has focused himself more than ever in his goal to bring the amazing collective creative force of Los Angeles out of the shadows of the Hollywood sign and into national prominence.
He and his wife, Judeth Oden, launched a new publishing company to feature Los Angeles writers, Writ Large Press (writlargepress.com), in March of 2008.He continues to write and work as an editor-for-hire. He also happily teaches his writing workshop, The Finishing School.
He lives in Los Angeles, in Downtown now, where it’s booming or tanking depending on who you ask, with his wife and their dog, Bella. And he occasionally posts writing (and YouTube clips!) on his blog, Siberia/LA (chiwanchoi.com).