Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 1



Jiwon Choi


Not the Muse I Asked For

I write when I’m hungry
and when I’m sour
I hope for the muse of Sappho
to take over
from my muse who is not the muse
I asked for
he is the muse who came with the all-night
deli across the street
clutching his malt liquor
and unleashing a dirge of the heart
his siren song bleating inevitability
masquerading as epiphany

I asked for a muse who would know
how to find God
hidden in the ekphrasis
trapped in constant rhyme
a prisoner on all the urns
of antiquity.
How do I want to write him
into my life?

But this muse cannot instruct
and knows only how to eat
all the bread and drink
all the wine

while I am left to savor the unruly
honeysuckle and cry for Cabiria and her nights
when Fellini comes to town.




All the Gorgeousness in the World

Girls go missing in this town
because they make good stories

is this all we’re good for?

the strawberry of our mouths
ripest raspberry
at twelve
sour plums
by thirteen

when the glamour of tragedy moves on
to another town
we won’t be too far behind
getting into strange cars
or abandoned canoes
wade through bullshit
hell or high water
to find it’s crossed county
lines

Everything you do comes back to me

my mother’s whispers drip down my neck
she is one part sorrow and three parts amaretto sour
she’ll die in this town built on stilts
and evil
cluttered with alleys
like my uneasy conscience
dark and narrow
putrid water

no one stops us from going into the room
of a dead girl to touch her pillow
and ponder the stuffed bears
scattered atop her bed.

Did she steal porridge
did she break chairs?

Statistics say my brother and father
will do their worst
first before my stepfather
gets to

and no one talk about the woman in white
who lingers in the dark places inside
our houses––under stairs, inside maids’
rooms, made for poor girls
pawned off by their sour mothers
and feckless fathers for sacks of beans
and shanks of lamb

Everything you do comes back to me




Emerge

I was eleven when I smoked
my first tobacco––they were menthols
because that’s what I found
groping through the forest of my father’s
wool coats.

I used them to be let in
to the circle of girls
who had already started blooming
and bleeding, baring new bodies
to boys with potato chip breath
and dirty fingernails.

It wasn’t until high school that I
understood what my mother meant
when she said I was going to be a woman
soon and there was nothing I could do
about it.


Jiwon Choi: "I am a poet, teacher and urban gardener. I teach preschool at the Educational Alliance, a multi-generation non-profit located on the Lower East Side of New York City. I am also a long-time urban gardener and membership coordinator for the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden located near Downtown Brooklyn.

"One Daughter is Worth Ten Sons, published by Hanging Loose Press in 2017, is my first book of poetry. I live in Brooklyn, New York."




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