Nostos

How do I confess to you—
the things that I have always clenched close
that I grew up swallowing
grew accustomed to the taste
that I don’t know how to let go.

Sing to me, what do you know of rage?
What secrets have your mind tucked away
between creamy notebook pages,
slipped into the cursive scrawl
or strange dreams of a foreign coast
as you wandered, nameless, a
family and nation of one.

You buried the atoms of your childhood in the
sand, and forgot that the waves always return,
that the water wipes away works of human hands.

Our bodies remember the nameless terror
our bones and skin our crucified nerves,
the taut threads of our muscles—
in the moment and every moment after
what we witness calcifies, acted out again,
and we carry the stone in our chest
lodged in our throat
which we hold in the days that follow
memory hiding beneath the beat of our blood.

But saltwater coaxes confessions
and no dam endures in the face of words
the long night of your age listens,
and your ghosts beckon in our welcome.

Look at me
       turn your eyes to the silver of the mirror
Hear me
       and by moonlight retch up the rotten corpse
Resurrect me
       (for are you not tired of carrying poison histories)

and I will tell you the truth of what we left behind.


 

Quarantine Elegy IX 

 

I like the night. Where time is the only geography I am afforded, I 

carve out countries by the silent tap of the clock, spinning miles 

from the minutes, scaffolding out space from time, drawing 

borders for the separation of day and night. Night plunges me 

underwater. Through the rippling walls comes muffled thunder: the 

voices of the men I despise as they sometimes lie in sleep. I am 

all that exists in the world. If I closed my eyes I would disappear, 

too, smoke from the altar rising. I was arrogant. I climbed Sinai. I 

tried to cover the sky with my palm. The sun pierced me. I am all 

that exists in the world. I lift the cup to my lips. I drink and drink

and drink, drink the world up, gorge myself on cities and 

consciousness and miasma devouring coral and cormorant and

the headstones and all places of worship, the flood come again, 

the twin rivers running through me, the dove, the oath, the son, 

the slaughter, I have marched myself up to the high place of

slaughter, impossible sacrifice. And I failed to love the living— 

I hungered for salt and fire, I dreamed in dead tongues, I wanted to 

walk into the sea, I dared to prophesy our clean cruelties running deep. 

The waters recede. Mercy ought to leave me on my knees.

Tonight on this ruined earth, I have erased the sky.

When the smoke rises, let me linger, and lie.
 

Elizabeth Park is a fourth-year undergraduate at UCLA, majoring in Comparative Literature (Latin, Korean, Ancient Greek) with a minor in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. With a firm belief in the transformative, apotropaic, and essential realities of poetry, she is interested in literary translation; particularly modern Korean-to-English and Latin-to-English poetry. Born in Incheon, South Korea, and raised in the United States from the age of two, Elizabeth Park has a keen interest in exilic literatures, to whom poetry is one of many artistic vehicles for the exploration of diasporic identities.