[i have taken a bite of this root]

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

i have taken a bite of this rootpockets on paper openings on paperblack screensas for the rest, trembling trembling         a hole in the skyby yieldingit would beby yieldingit would bea long waitedimpossibilitytooquiet phantomsum art does not go into the monumental in art, but searches forthe petites choses, the primal movement, the flickering of light.      it looksfor the roots of the language before it is born on the tip of the tongue, itgoes toward the thing before it can be turned into a sculpture.    color isaccepted only while it has not yet become some special kind of colour.       inmusic it is the sound before it becomes a score, music, or a symphony.literature is sometimes only the page before it turns into a written page in abook.      sum-art makes, so to speak, an effort to create aretrogressive evolution.        it is the spiritual in colour icelandic wisdom of eccentricity penetrates asum art that extra ordinary individual and only wisdom known in iceland,the wisdom of isolation, of the individual outlawed human being.hreinn’s piecei spend the day with the sun     i spend the night with moon and starsreflection on creationcreation being not just a mirror image.     it is this, and at the same timethat     so it is both              a vow                                      somewhere between this word     w   o   r   d              avow                                       just before the word begins              avoue                                     even before the word begins just                                                                before this w   o   r   d   ends some                                                                where     some                                                                time                                                                before this word said                                                                               this     w   o    r    d     written                                                                word suspension                                                                the last breath taken before uttered                                                                before sound formed       the   gest                                                                before the instrument sounded                                                                and it is not THIS word.          the sound before it reaches ears                                                                                          when it leaves us                                 before wind becomes felt                                 and not end there.             and end there.                                                                                       hesitantly before an act made                                                                                       hesitance. yet made.                                                                                       effort energy taken before         act made                                                                                                              yet made.                                                                                       and after accepting the passing—                                                                                       as it passes takes touch elsewhere                                                                                       taken from elsewhere.      holding my breath          trying not to try to not try to try to to try not not to hold back my palm          could only open all the heart to burst az rain az thunder always this another time          bearing over am doingone folding in another folding in one in another foldingfusion . . . dispersionstagnant lac brûme le matin brû me le soir      and hold and rock let entercontained statue                                     coiled up eat from the end                                     devour                                     back to the beginning                                     eat its way out of it                                     through it                                     into it                                     back from it figure eight                                                                              amsterdam                                                                              28 june 1976

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Photo of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982) was a poet, filmmaker, and artist who earned her BA and MA in comparative literature and her BA and MFA in art from the University of California, Berkeley.

Oakland, California

University of California

"There is a deep pleasure to be found in attending to Cha’s intricate, ever inventive use of sound, punctuation, form, and syntax. It’s painful to think of what else Cha would have done if her life hadn’t been curtailed. Her existing work is so original and wide-ranging that reading it feels like emerging from a tangle into an open glade. What’s here is both not enough and a plenitude."
The New Yorker

“Cha is a thoroughly detail-oriented literary and visual artist. Her methodical work doesn't entertain or dazzle. It is open-ended in a way that requires its audience to supply part of the vision.”
—Jana Hsu, San Francisco Bay Guardian

“The volume brings to light part of Cha’s achievement . . . Tantalizing.”

“Those interested in this work may be limited to fans of experimental and avant-garde literature and art.”
Library Journal

Poetry Daily Depends on You

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