Fresh off the Boat ⎜ An Iconography

Su Hwang


Tongue unfurls in ruins, low
& guarded as if each syllable unsheathes
a fresh wound. Severed: foreign bodies
clutch foreign limbs. No place
for proper burials, only
tacit uprisings.


Wander through deluge / shield / from
gusts of windsong / shingled eaves

rise / dreams are
not yours to be / shared

legacy of no/bodies


Heft hems craving, atrophies
into opal bone fields where
spring's bounty bursts unshut
to expose new realms.

There's no place like home
There's no place like home
There's no place like home
There's no one place           

unmoored: tears glint
like oceans among the weeds.
In winter, sleet melds into
mammoth banks sighing loss.


Accused of siphoning honey from hive, blood thickens then winds along ravines where tubers are exposed to a certain density. Woe spills into ceramic pots already splintered & mended, balanced gingerly on the heads of ancient women climbing steps carved along the lip of steely mountains.

            Family trees reduced
                                                            to oral
traditions, cauterized     dead
                                                    ends of dendrite filigree:
                                of myth, disintegrating
                                                                                    like vapor, apparitions
            that whisper: Don't you dare
                                                                                            me. Don't forget.


Wilderness: oh how
it bewilders! Head west
toward the wilting
vanishing point.

In darkness,
children morph
into beasts rabid
from diets of artificial
commodities. Trade origin
for sugar: they forget
their given names.


Ballet of looped
                  (y)earnings: mirrored
                                                                    Wall: begin
                                                                                    & end: end
                                                                                        & begin: begin & end:

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Su Hwang is a poet, activist, and the author of Bodega (Milkweed Editions, 2019). Born in Seoul, Korea, she was raised in New York then called the Bay Area home before transplanting to the Midwest. A recipient of the inaugural Jerome Hill Fellowship in Literature, she teaches creative writing with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and is the cofounder, with poet-educator-healer Sun Yung Shin, of Poetry Asylum. Su currently lives in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

"These poems feel right on time."
―Boston Globe

"In Su Hwang's intricate debut, the bodega is a vantage point for 'taking stock of these terrible/ hierarchies' of race, privilege and immigration . . . She asks readers to hear rather than understand 'the gibberish/ of anguish' spilling from dislocation and trauma."
―Minneapolis Star Tribune

"These poems demand to be sounded-out and savored . . . the narrative eye and ear is gentle, encompassing, hypnotic."
―The Millions

"In this formally dexterous debut, Hwang interrogates language, identity, and cultural inheritance . . . This work succeeds in using the nuances of poetic technique to amplify an already powerful message of cultural identity."
―Publishers Weekly

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.