Adapted from jacket design, by Etel Adnan, courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

Finding Hope Among the Fragments

Ward Toward is the 118th volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, in which Cindy Juyoung Ok moves assuredly between spaces—from the psych ward to a prison cell, from divided countries to hospice wards. She plumbs these institutions of constraint, ward to ward, and the role of each reality’s language, word to word, as she uncovers fractured private codes and shares them in argument, song, and prayer. For World Poetry Day, enjoy readings of selected poems from Ward Toward.


Vagueness tends to criminalize
and of few available alternatives
my favorite is the dream of the same

room. Pick your noise, in wells
or against walls. In the light

of the microwave clock, under advice
of long symbols, showily I become

my own guest (in mother words,
a duty). Oxygen a calm oddity
everywhere but its status more

bounced in bias. To be my chorus,
I first had to be a teenager who hoped

to kill the myth of the protagonist,
related quarries. Mental trespasses then

of floating down from tall towers
denoted the promise of language’s
end. In its icon of bloodlessness,

my skin had, has, the potential
to be a good canvas for the palettes

of others. I’m not native to any
place and so naive to every log—

still want the trees less naked.

The End of Crisis

When you leap over the deer carcasses
that line every garden you will marvel
at their tidiness, at how bloodless a death
by drought can be. When I crawl through
the highway pieces shattered by heat,
I will admire the clean slits as I kick
aside crumbles of broken stone with little
blistering. When you thread between
the overtaken shores and bodies of elders,
frozen, when I follow the fallen saplings’
directions toward the horizon where
colorless sky and earth meet, we will
remember rippling at the birthday parties
for corporations and framing the ash
of beloved photos burnt in wildfire. When
we think of crossing the river to each
other, you from the gorge of the landslide
to me at the crest of the typhoon, it is then
we will find ourselves in a dead imaginary,
in some fictive past where the you exists,
where I is not a myth we use to keep
surviving at the cost of bird and glacier,
home and tenderness. Once we have ruined
the future of becoming fossils, we will
know finally we die not for drowned sea
turtles or swarming locusts, nor to arrest
cancerous sand and mold, not even for
the dance of subway floods or the graceless
eclipse of all our promises and planets.

Cindy Juyoung Ok writes, edits, and teaches poetry.

Rae Armantrout is the award-winning author of eighteen books of poetry, most recently Finalists, Conjure, and Wobble.

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