“With deceptively quiet alarm, exciting syntactical moves open the first lines of Ginger Ko’s poem. Progressively balancing the reader on a tightrope between image and language, its meaning unfolds over a terrain of shocking possibilities the speaker is simultaneously numb to and simmering with anger about. I am a sucker for first person plural done well. Ko’s we is laden with traumas too mundane to keep accepting, too surreal to be ignored. This poem changes shape in mind and sound, yet holds a clear through-line—a stellar container for the contradictions, hazards and unspoken hopes of the living—in a key word, well chosen: persistence.”

–Judge, Khadijah Queen

Smooth Cruelty Can Be Sacred Regularity

by Ginger Ko

The powerful want
so much to be
our siblings,
to acknowledge
relatedness
to monstrous poor.
They see themselves
in the finely-bred
birds that cry out
until they die
at laying age.
We throw blood
as punishment.
We were taught
to bleed bright
for show, the dark
thick meant for
unrecorded offings.
Every so often
we need to be
told a story
and misted as if
from a light rain.
Some of us
can broadcast
uncaringly, but some
would rather
remain silent
than provide
something to
ridicule or fear.
Two halves slip
away from a pair
of shears,
the revealed flesh
reflecting a crowd
of insects that clatter
brightly to the ground
like a handful
of beads.
We were taught
that only one species
can take antlers
and guns both.
You cannot get
your supply of meat
and keep
your supply of milk
from the same
animal, you must
have multiples.
Our parents allowed
themselves to be
annihilated,
and it was recorded
that they were
conquered. Secreted
away by difference
is that their allowance
was a power forever
inaccessible
to the settlers,
a decision to walk
into the water
rather than serve
in the fields. No
benefit to forming
families when all
were politicians.
Does it become
a responsibility?
That you could bring
another joy
by being near?
Euthanizing
winning racehorses
reaches back
into the past,
neutralizes spoor,
turns it into
a metaphor. But
the animals
do not just
slink and flit
from roadside trees,
they lead lives
with each other
away from humans.
The persistence
of a broken-pawed
mouse is the same
as a torn and listing
mysticeti’s. They
continue until they
do not continue.

Ginger Ko is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, where she teaches writing and Women’s Studies. She is the author of Motherlover (Bloof Books), Inherit (Sidebrow), Comorbid (Lark Books), and Ghosts, Models, Visions (Bloof Books). Her poetry and essays can be found in American Poetry Review, The Offing, VIDA Review, and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.gingerko.com