The Poetry Section: Three Poems by Monica Youn

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

The Poetry Section

Today in The Poetry Section: three new poems by Monica Youn, from her forthcoming book, Ignatz.


the way water is always rushing between a ferry

and its dock in that ever-present gap where

the rush is the speed of the water and the rush

is the sound of the water and the water is

bitterly cold and is foul in its bitterness and

the gap is irreducible space and time and

is the ache felt by the ferry in the cold

of its iron bones which will never clang

against the framework of the dock

in the satisfying clash of solid surfaces because

the gap is where such satisfaction helplessly

dissolves the way Ignatz now feels his anger

dissipating in that self-same gap between

the trigger and the smack between his anger

and its object the way one eyebrow

can never meet the other in a true unbroken V

no matter how doomy how dour

how darksome his invariable frown.


Night like a black

glass bell

and the fading

echo of the detox


helpless helpless

helpless helpless

if fleshly importuning

were to fall silent…


Each sinner’s left behind

a little sinner


laminated photos,

silk flowers

strung with wire.


tiptoes unseen through


of votive prayer


holding as his candle


an aluminum


snoozes with his head down on the secondhand classroom desk with his elbow on the part of it that curves around to support his elbow so that he can shut his eyes against the bend of his own arm with his cheek pressed against the laminated desktop and his fingers just draping over the laminated plywood edge that is the same edge that curves around to dig slightly into his ribcage which is tilted so his lower spine stays in contact with the molded contours of the glossy seagreen chair that curves around to where his thighs begin and rises slightly where his legs need to rise and rounds off gently and ends just where his legs need to bend down to the floor so that if this is a lesson in how something harder and something softer can achieve a mutuality if the harder thing has a curvature that suggests an accommodating mindset and the softer thing is willing to relinquish some measure of contingency so the softer thing can come temporarily to rest and if a test were devised on the subject of this lesson then what would be gained for one who took this test and passed it or one who took this test and failed?

Monica Youn is an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where she is the director of the campaign finance reform project. Her first book, Barter, was published in 2003 from Graywolf Press and her second book, Ignatz, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in Spring 2010. She has been awarded poetry fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Stanford University and has been a visiting professor of creative writing at Pratt Institute and at Columbia University.

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