ED BOK LEE
RANDOM FLOATING CELLS WITH STYLE
To love one another with quantum certainty is to volumize the stars.
It might take some time, a few million years, but for your efforts—many more
moth-white, fuzzy, brightened blurs. There, someone
once upon a time loved despite. There, another
just shed enough fears in love not to burst. Each evening,
this movie of love plays out like popcorn blinking lively in the sky.
As if your epilogue were an ancient, omniscient satellite to whom
time no longer matters, and matter always exceeds the count.
Ah, you bonus illumination in this vast multiplying apart.
You gathering of random floating cells with style.
You—all of you—dying trillions of times every hour
to recommence each new forever inside these eyes. Look.
Look at me seeing you seeing me from the beginning of the universe and time.
Never forget: wherever, whenever you are, is the history of all you loved in the dark.
POST-ELECTION POEM, NOVEMBER
I was wrestling with a poem
while in a far room she was crying.
I’d been sweating to get it to sing
or speak eloquently, at least exorcize the animus from our deeply lodged insanity.
Meanwhile, in her far room, Babygirl would not go back down.
I needed personally to hear through the poem
what future humans will believe in the next few millennia
of horror, tenderness, genocide, altruism, capacity for deceit, of beauty—
I didn’t understand that she was already openly translating,
while the poem I hunched over lay comatose.
Our policy: wait five to ten minutes before going in.
Often, after a final, hawk-like screech, she’d fall quiet, until I could breathe again.
But on this night, the longer she wailed, the more deaths shed from me,
until finally at the risk of waking her forever
I rose and walked into the dark corner of our galaxy
where a deeper belief in the brightness of human souls
was now livid in its demand for a new kind of poetry.
When our Babygirl was born, a space
inaccessible inside me suddenly began to breathe.
One day, I know, her rasps and purrs,
oceanic to the core,
will have floated beyond more caverns than my eyes could ever behold.
There, she’s already lost in some labyrinth
rehearsing a spell against dragons. Now
an adolescent, closing thoughtlessly
her door, hazy
between a wild crown of hair and phone’s glow.
Now a grown woman, wiping away tears of joy
or pain, or both,
I can’t tell because the bellowing that consumes
is so vastly her own,
no one, not I, nor her mother, nor a future lover
could lead her by the hand to see the stars in such a deep or shallow well.
But for now she’s still just a baby
and I have my palms, my forearms, and two more nursery rhymes
to soothe such fast-fluttering lungs.
For now my voice can still crack
and loll with the sweet news of hers—spun
lit chrysalis of very early mornings.
ED BOK LEE is the author of three books of poetry, most recently, Mitochondrial Night (Coffee House Press, March 2019). He grew up in South Korea, North Dakota, and Minnesota, and was educated there and later on both U.S. coasts, Russia, South Korea, and Kazakhstan. Honors include an American Book Award, a PEN/Open Book Award, a Minnesota Book Award, and an Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice). He teaches part-time at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and works also as an artist, translator, and for two decades has taught in numerous programs for youth and the incarcerated.