Cathexis Northwest Press
land grab; groan; elegance
By: Mariah K. Hamang
i’m choosing the worst possible poison
for this job. the landlady who gossips about
other tenants for 45 minutes, at the first showing –
veterans regularly attempting suicide,
the black woman upstairs (with a Master’s degree too!),
the mole-eyed typist, the first
better native accent (ranked by country).
it is coming to me in increments.
i mistakenly underestimated
the length of time i would need.
it was the loneliness of them
that fell in love with us, not the person.
we groped at it erringly,
we cast a piece of ourselves all over the sprawl,
this freed up even more of us to the surface,
de-rooted and nascent, aerated.
you could go with him because he asked the least of you.
that would be easy.
whose dirt had you to put up with but your own?
i could cancel myself for a while,
for the sake of poverty. i am lucky
i am occasionally able to be bought,
i am lucky that hotel management taught me
i cannot yet stop whispering to myself
behind the words
i seem to speak to my family members.
if everything – if every last opportunity
and barely open chance –
could just be quiet for a second
and let me recover my breath,
listen to nothing, look at no screen,
certainly make no decision. always say less.
well, no. you’re not wrong enough then.
paper remote control cars,
an absolute mess on those routes,
every impetuous step placed with a regal caution,
an air of: i could do both things at once.
of course i could.
it was like mother’s milk for me to say this:
i could do both things at once.
my chorus shouted this gravely behind the scenes.
but see, i am not a playwright. understand:
i am not here to imitate, but to metamorphose.
my plan is to upgrade and downgrade simultaneously.
i am not here to be anything of the year
except maybe further into or out of
several different types of holes –
credit and conservation,
anywhere your flexible code will take you.
he could show you his badge number,
he could let you take a photograph of his license plate,
he could disappear at any minute.
we could choose not to.
we could despair about which day to go in,
who you’ll see again.
it would seem unreal, unbelievable,
ancient, tense. can you tell? all the different kinds.
you could say it or swallow it or
ball it up into a cotton swab,
soak it anywhere.
some choose their eyeballs,
the hydroelectric impulse there going haywire.
there would be a top,
there would always be a top.
you would eventually get tired of the song.
you would eventually sate yourself
– it was soon, actually.
how much it suited you to give up the chase.
i’ve come to know firsthand
so many flavors of coward.
it isn’t always, at first, obvious.
they hide everywhere,
passively anticipating your subscription.
we always run out by sunday,
circular loans and incisive growls of boredom,
lazier than all the day’s pillow talk,
gentler around the ears.
it requests a certain privacy—
where do you lay your head at night?
how much disgrace is acceptable
to carry around in the crick of your back,
or plunged under your gut like a molding plum pit?
what is the flattest tone with which you can say,
“I’m American”? the least commitment to
opinion or responsibility, collective selfishness.
goddammit, just let me move around,
let me keep my coffee budget
in the interest of honoring your bad habits,
putting a moratorium on everything else
or light, unprayed prayers to see the other side,
to not disregard the contentions of those
whose hearts matter this time,
to maybe once keep someone close
who can look you in the eye after three years
and still say, “This makes me proud.”
solid, maybe, bones,
the catastrophes that turn them gelatinous,
plotting unnecessary reunion parties,
setting dewy eyes on newer boxes,
bigger towers, higher walls to scale, finding
somewhere within yourself an untamed desire
to make an indiscriminate reprimand,
an indistinguishable peace, to let go, to be wrong.
a collection of admirers
you’d prefer stay afar.
perfectly manageable at that distance
– away, capsizing.
the suggestion of putting all of it to music.
the practiced hand of hidden arrogance.
intermittent bouts of dormancy,
checked passions, pilled bedsheets.
humility. there’s a proper method to
seeking help, to revising lulls in rationalities,
tracks to follow, pressed into the snow,
more visible in the summer.
slacking off. long signatures.
Mariah K. Hamang is a Chicago-based poet, linguist, and world traveler. A graduate of Indiana University (BA) and the University of Colorado (MA), her work plays with expectation, challenges boundary, and drives emotional and bodily imagery as a viable source of information. In her personal life, she advocates for the free discovery and expression of every authentic angle of human experience. Her work has been published in BlazeVox, Otoliths, Catahoula, Generations Literary Magazine, and others.
"I'm always unsure what to say when asked what my poems are 'about' — seems a limiting line of narrative. I find it more helpful to describe them in terms of where I was at in life when I wrote it, so as to give a broader perspective on what could have inspired each sum's bits and pieces. So, in that vein: In 2015-2016, I lived in Istanbul, Turkey. 'land grab' and 'elegance' were written soon after returning to the U.S., while trying to adjust to life in my hometown region, Chicago's industrial suburbs in Indiana, after having lived elsewhere for four years. 'groan' was written earlier, while living in Istanbul, and was inspired by various key moments of my life there."