Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poem: "A Whole History"

A Whole History

In the morning they were both found dead
     Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
--Eavan Boland, “Quarantine”

The floor is cold with the coming winter.
     I pull on white socks
and sit down before the blackout window
to think about our separation closing in.

We have a history longer than the two years
     that fitted like a shirt.
You learned a long time ago to enjoy ironing.
I always had someone ironing shirts for me.

But we go further back than birth, to furtive
     park encounters,
coded glances, tapping on bathroom walls,
ways of staying warm and white in winter.

Yesterday a young friend said it’s wrong
     to expose children
to a gay wedding. The chill hit me again.
Rage spread like blood over my clean shirt.

I cannot wash it off. You are no longer willing.
     In the closet the shirt,
part reminder of love, part reminder of rage,
is held up by its shoulders on thin twisted wire.



Patricia Markert said...

The line, "Rage spread like blood over my clean shirt" gave me chills and began to build for an even bigger impact, the final line.

What a powerful poem.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Patty.

Gregory Lewis Bynum said...

Thank you for this Jee Leong. It felt good to read it. Lately I've been angry too about people's worthless bigoted attitudes towards gay people and children.

Jee Leong Koh said...

I'm glad the poem resonates and, perhaps, soothes.

Eshuneutics said...

Fine emotional control, Jee. I so enjoyed reading this. I have similar shirts,

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

In the morning they were found dead, of cold. Of hunger. What a wonderful opening to inspire a poem! I have liked your poem from the bottom of my heart.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Eshu,
We must compare shirts sometime. Or wear each other's for size.