Thanksgiving Poem

SP wishes all our readers a very happy Thanksgiving.


Gorgeous Unfinished Wood Braced in Grey Iron
by Jee Leong Koh


Save us from being devoured by the new thatch
or the shiny nails.

Xunka’ Utz’utz’ Ni’, “So the New House Won’t Eat Us,” translated from Tzotzil by Ámbar Past


They are eating us, the lamps dangling like fruit
from curvy metal stems
that sucked up days of browsing catalogues,

the Sony 24” HDTV and the media console,
gorgeous unfinished wood braced in grey iron,
that cost more than we thought,

the witchy bedroom blinds
that can be lowered from the top or raised from the ledge
to stop curious eyes,

the kitchen cart, the black bookshelves,
the dish drainer, the shower caddy, the vacuum cleaner,
the plastic food containers that swallow each other like Russian dolls.

Close the mouths of the envious, Kajval,
shut up the scolding socialists.
Let the hermit crawl back to his hole.

We will pray to the spirit in things,
we will pray to you, Kajval, Mother,

turning first, with clasped hands, to the fading photo
of sister, husband and baby Hannah
on the black bookshelf,

turning next to the dining table
that father Norval built from cherry wood
and you, love, drove for nine hours across four states from Cincinnati,

and add our prayers to those of the Mayan lady,
who is poor beyond our imagination,
but tallies our hearts:

Let the saints in their coffers,
the voices that speak from inside old chests,
stand up for those who live in this house.


Reprinted by the author’s permission from Steep Tea by Jee Leong Koh (Carcanet Press).



The Russel Wright House in Garrison, NY (photo by Guy E. Humphrey)


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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