From “Disorient: Sister-Fugues & Assimilamentations”


Like or unlike, make me

thy lyre, thy liar—

fists clenched so tightly the knuckles paled to stone—

then calmed myself to keep my brother and sister calm.

Who would protect them

if I said something back?

And the child-I-was, trying to be

less visible, trying to disappear—

Look ma, no words.

Look ma, no tears.

Hum to baby sister, pretending to hear nothing,

see nothing, feel nothing, until all is nothing

but a forest of fumes, excrement and bleach,

sweet detergent and steam—

invention of the lullaby

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream:

Sow, sow, sow your prayers: God may be, but cannot seem.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

Reap, reap, reap your tears: little boy, don't fight don't scream.


As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods—

As flies to wanton boys are we to the boys—


The day we couldn't find him, when he was eight,

makes a hole that has no end.

For hours and hours, mother called his name,

going door to door, like a salesman—

st o rage

And through the O, another world,

where what happened never happened—

where our next-door neighbors’ son and his friend

never locked him in their storage shed—

never beat him with crowbar, shovel, broom—

no lacerations, no gash in his skull needing stitches—

no garden-hose used as a whip—

no shotgun or slug-sweat—

no clawhammer or dog’s choke-chain—

no no not-meaning “no”—

to the last O

of his last tomorrow—

traduttore, traditore

[sound of what we refuse to say to each other]

[as if on mute]

[as if GodTM covered my mouth with his chapped, leathery hand,dirt under the nails]

[“le silence de Dieu est Dieu” etc.]

[as if translating from one silence to another]

[Is that you]                      [the you you could have become]

[sound of the hours passing, the years passing]

[selves appearing and disappearing]

[“I”]                                 [“I”]                                 [“I”]

fugue: brothers & keepers

I begin with love, hoping to end there.

Am I my brother’s keeper?  Did my eyes

avoid yours, brother?  I can’t stop

leaving.  Oye hermano, no tardes

en salir.  Bueno?  Puede inquietarse mamà.

I tried so hard to leave you behind,

but I am more faithful

than I intended to be.  et mutam

nequiquam alloquerer cinerem.  and talk (why?)

with mute ash.  The sky is the silence

of brothers.  Seek, Memory.  be kind:

rewind.   you cannot end please let this not be

the end           mask up/ clap

for carers.              A brother

never ends.                     stand clear

of the closing doors/ mind

the gap.       The end never ends.

“O” & “St O Rage” previously appeared in Frontier.

Source: Poetry (November 2023)
More Poems by Suji Kwock Kim