The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

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DEC 22–JAN 23 Issue


The Five Room Dance

In our search for a proportionate address we leak
out of bed as you stretch your books and I mine
the frozen language for olding hands day by week.
I account for each siren and you count the hips to sigh

for with the seam of open borders. Tracing the yard,
the lace of leaves as why I write. Why I, right, frown
your side affects, the cadence of the fact that stars:
a woman is a thing that absorbs. Reset by our brown

paper walls, time lends rest (flooding fast the thread
where we once swam to altar, prepared mourning
feasts, and, at last, lashed all the ideas we wed).
I’m sorry we need to be bodies here, five doors in

a closed round, the words we cross a swarm
from which I am wrung. As I, wrong, form.

Fort and Fortune

Sometimes you are right and it is catastrophe
once a day or so but in many spaces an egg

is just an egg and soon can serve as a name.
Spines work like atoms, influence each other

but never touch, become the curb, the crowd,
the canyon. You describe that which is in view

in part to address what is outside of it but I
prefer to corral the edges as a way to hope

discreetly for some given center. Evening
the surface takes filing, makes your mother appear

as a clue and my morning rely on the leather
of plants. I fling at the species of trees you

know well and I become the person I imagine
asleep. Candles not lit boast their potential

to be, as the emptiness of a city at dawn is
righteous: only these years, only our rooms.

Manzanita Street

There were these twins
I loved who called me
mom, a term of the times

meaning I was their least
bland teacher. The one
I knew less well agreed

in passing that corpses are
not people, especially not
the ones who had carried

them. Adults directed
her to say goodbye to
their mother in a hospital

bed and she thought,
that is not my mom. I do not
know who it is but it is

not my mama. I lived,
at the time, on a small
street meaning apple—

its diminutive. For years
after the three of us had left
that school, I wrote them

when I wrote my own mother,
until one year messages
returned to sender explaining

there are namers and name
receivers, and I have only
birthed clots, one at a time.


Cindy Juyoung Ok

Cindy Juyoung Ok teaches university and nonprofit creative writing and translates Korean poetry. A MacDowell Fellow, she has published poems in journals like the Nation, Poetry, and the Massachusetts Review, and a chapbook, House Work, is forthcoming in March from Ugly Duckling Presse.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

All Issues