Three Poems

by Kimiko Hahn

Big Feathered Hats

worn by women a century ago
would necessitate aligning the body in a threshold

just so. It’s this just so

that intrigues Professor Iriki,
who has probed clumps of tissue

to uncover how cells and circuits

map the world around it

to the body’s schema.
To sense that tight spot

whether concrete
or like the night her lover admitted

he’d had an affair with his own mother—
his word, affair

and she knew in her bones
which was really her brain

that she should get the fuck out.
Those feathers. That exit.

 

Admission

Victor Hugo claimed that dreams
are the aquarium of the night

confirming for the tourist
the mysterious hush

when viewing the depths sealed behind plate glass.
Even more than dream, I wish

to name the various species;
to stare at or flee the one that sports a playmate’s face

blinking back at me. Cathedral of science!
Cathedral of childhood! Of childhood nights!

Of adult—what? Of remorse as a hall
to which we pay admission?
 

 

Swinburne Island
for E

We collect what we collect with varying intent
from mammy dolls to gall wasps;
and for a fledgling ornithologist, cormorant vomit,

or what his advisor describes as
frantic ichthyology—a search for ear bones or other fragments
that could identify a certain species among the partially digested.

The handsome devil-birds that dive like penguins
and fly like ducks are drying their spread wings
when Colin climbs onto some rocks

just below the Verrazano-Narrows. On Swinburne Island,
once a quarantine for immigrants, now rubble,
the young man sees the birds flushed from thickets

and hears the dumping of stomach contents—
which they do to lighten for take off or signal, Get lost.
Or flaunt what’s been consumed:

Grandma Ida’s wienerschnitzel. Uncle Jack’s Sunday comics.
Auntie Kimiye’s pearls. Burying a tiny terrier up to its neck
but just for ten minutes. A little sister’s blanket.

A thump, smelling of mummified fish remains
and prized by an ambitious graduate student
whose own gut is frantic with fortune, tangy and rotten.

 

Kimiko Hahn’s forthcoming book, Toxic Flora (W. W. Norton), in which these poems will appear, is inspired by the science section of the New York Times. She teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation, Queens College, The City University of New York.
 
This issue of First Proof is sponsored in part by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation.

 

BOMB 111
Spring 2010
The cover of BOMB 111
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