• Railroad, and: Ode to the Picnic Singers (Flushing Meadow Park, 1984)


One day I will write a poemabout my father as a mountain,and there will be no shame for the dynamiteand the blasted hole, the pickaxes and steam drillspaving their own resolute path,for the railroad ploughed through his core,for shattered rocks, for pungent scent of pines.My father will be a mountain surrounded by windthat wears him down as slowly as marriage,as America, as time. But he is stilla man and a mountain: drilled, hammered, alive,unaware of all who love him from the far track.

—reprinted with the permission of the poet [End Page 122]

Ode to the Picnic Singers (Flushing Meadow Park, 1984)

...And then at dusk the womanclimbed atop the picnic tableand belted out a Patty Kim hit,plastic spoon a clutched mic in her fist!

And the galbi spit and bubbled darkas azalia and crushed black diamond,meat soy-sauced and sizzling in the July heatwavesthat hummed like the yellow frisbee flung

over tiny Youna Ean, kneeling among clover and dandelion.Ay, the sky flapped above us like a soiled workshirton a clothesline while we twisted our ankles over Chinese jumprope,then flew by on flowered banana seats, wind teasing streamers

and the black whips of our hair, pastour brothers in visors and cut-off football tanks,lost in long switchgrass and dewy goose shit.And our mothers raced! Piggybacking frilled babies

over grass to catch butter cookiesstrung on a white finish line with their teeth,to the slow butterfly thighs of their men.Far from the dented Volvos and Hyundais

bereft in the parking lot, these husbands whorled and spunlike dervishes around that imported leather rugby ballfrom Seoul, bathed in a halo of their own sweatand kicked-up dirt. Our parents gathered,

shook loose the workday, their hangook tongueslike wild geese skimming over a cool lake.They popped open barrel-shaped Budweisersand let the foam spill over.

My father tilted the can to baby Sarah's mouthand laughed at her sputtering, a laughter so seriousI think I forgive him, his hungry rough cheeks stillingto the woman's hungry, rough songs. And Jung Yun's uma

sang like a torn-up hymnal. She sang until we droppedthe twigs and pigeon feathers from our handsto sit cross-legged in the nest of our mothers,she sang like a yanked-out phonecord; shrill,

cut, ringing, 70s pop ballad fervidwith religion so unlike our Sunday falsettos,she sang and we believed in a smaller,gruffer, chip-toothed god: she sang the dusk down.

And we, staring up at her knees,rested in the blue fall of each others' shadowswhile the bab and ban chan, paper plates and water coolerswere left, for once, gratefully unattended.

—from Century of the Tiger, Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing (Winter 2002) [End Page 123]

Ishle Yi Park

Ishle Yi Park is the poet laureate of Queens, New York. She has performed her unique blend of poetry and song across the United States, Cuba, New Zealand, Singapore, and Korea. She can be reached at ishlepark@gmail.com.

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