Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 4



Jiwon Choi


Jim Crow Appears as the Monkey God

In the garden of last chances
and ungainly wishes
we peel bananas, crack open watermelon
arrive at the point where we pull wings off flies
waiting for Fortune’s daughter
to walk in and claim us as kin. We weather
broken noses and cracked teeth
bind our feet to prove our birthright.

Alas, it is the Monkey God who gets here
first, bestowing wickedness and dirty humor
alongside ire in the dense fire of his tongue
and kicks from his iron feet.

Are we really worthy of all this committed
destruction?




Jesus, Gather

thistles grow
where I tread
so I may gather
and weave them
into a crown
to wear 100 miles
to the sea


following Gandhi
on his salt march
and when he touches
the hem of my garment
I will bow down
to kiss his feet


releasing my heart
like a phoenix
a deliverance of fire
to comfort your life
into death


I will always be
a poet, but come
Sunday find me
multiplying loaf
into loaves
fish into more


a makeshift mathematician
of the poor.




To the Hogs

Smell of blood
teats dripping
into mud

oh God of Hogs
bless these hooves gnawed
to nubs by hogs who have guessed
their lives are weighed out
in innards and extremities

slaughter
for fragments
for refrigerators.

It’s not personal, the factory bosses
want you to know
it’s just our coded information
transmitting through thin strands
of glass: fiber optics in milliseconds

look yonder Midwest
where the clover grows all over
while Hollywood keeps dropping
bombs and bombshells.

And we are diminished to ghosts
hanging participles
rustling through cupboards
hankering for one more
ginger snap

everything goes
to the hogs.




To Eat

We’ve been cooking
cassava for hours
while the men drink beer
and skin all they can grab

tonight it’s rat
turning over an agitated fire
spitting out sparks
and ire

good eating for the emperors
and empresses
of Mozambique.




Wet Dog

The old man who pays to live
in the front room
used to be a sailor.

No one visits him and he uses our kitchen
every night to fry his meat.
I sit cross-legged on the living room floor
eating hot rice and soup
listening to flesh sizzle.

One day he is gone and the room stays
empty, but he must have walked into
the walls because I can smell him.

When the landlord gets on the elevator
smelling like a wet dog
my nose goes into red alert:
I’m not allergic to dogs
just landlords. When he sneezes
I think he must be allergic
to himself.


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 NYC. I am also a long-time urban gardener and membership coordinator for the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden located near Downtown Brooklyn. I helped to create Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardens Land Trust, along with four other local gardens, to preserve and safeguard their green spaces in perpetuity.

One Daughter Is Worth Ten Sons, published by Hanging Loose Press, is her first book of poetry. She lives in Brooklyn, NY."




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