Orison: February, Eugene, Oregon

Garrett Hongo

for Al Young

Months of heavy rain and the back lawn                                                       is an emerald pond
with islands of fig and apple trees and their dirt collars
darkening under the pixilated gray of a computer-screen sky.I’ve cinched my desires in a handful of thin books,
wired the dwarf pines and maples in their pots on the deck
and instructed them in Soul Train and break-dance poses
to beguile my children and signify what’s past.Which is various: Motown and min’yo blaring together                                      on the PA of my high school gym,
emanations of soul and shamisen from the living room stereo
back when I was a child, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”
rising like a willow tree by a smooth-flowing river
banded with a long slick of stars streaking across its back
in a wall-hanging of calligraphy and gaudy prints                                      over the Silvertone console.I tell myself I’ve drifted too far now to go back,
my karma the boat of a dry leaf caught in the swirls of that river
taking me from ghetto to this immaculate garden                                      without stain or confusion,
everything so calm and forgotten, the anguish I have
like the darting squirrel that emerges, a nervous                                                       and comic thing,
unavailed of all the refulgence and splendor that surrounds him
and would inspire a lapse from instinct and pain
if not for the immutable worry               that jags through his heart like a dance.

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Garrett Hongo was born in Volcano, Hawai‘i, and grew up in Los Angeles. His latest book is The Mirror Diary: Selected Essays (University of Michigan Press, 2017). His most recent book of poems is Coral Road (Knopf, 2011). He teaches at the University of Oregon.

New England Review

Volume 39, Number 2 / 2018

Middlebury, Vermont

Middlebury College

Editor: Carolyn Kuebler
Managing Editor: Marcia Parlow
Poetry Editor: Rick Barot

By publishing new fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that is both challenging and inviting, New England Review encourages artistic exchange and thought-provoking innovation, providing publishing opportunities for writers at all stages in their careers. The selection of writings in each issue presents a broad spectrum of viewpoints and genres, including traditional and experimental fiction, long and short poems, translations, criticism, letters from abroad, reviews in arts and literature, and rediscoveries. New England Review exists in a place apart from mass culture, where speed and information overload are the norm. At NER, serious writing is given serious attention, from the painstaking selection process through careful editing and publication, where finally the writer’s words meet up with a curious and dedicated readership.

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