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Myung Mi Kim's Commons weighs on the most sensitive of scales the minute grains of daily life in both peace and war, registering as very few works of literature have done our common burden of being subject to history. Abstracting colonization, war, immigration, disease, and first-language loss until only sparse phrases remain, Kim takes on the anguish and displacement of those whose lives are embedded in history.
Kim's blank spaces are loaded silences: openings through which readers enter the text and find their way. These silences reveal gaps in memory and articulate experiences that will not translate into language at all. Her words retrieve the past in much the same way the human mind does: an image sparks another image, a scent, the sound of bombs, or conversation. These silences and pauses give the poems their structure.
Commons's fragmented lyric pushes the reader to question the construction of the poem. Identity surfaces, sinks back, then rises again. On this shifting ground, Kim creates meaning through juxtaposed fragments. Her verse, with its stops and starts, its austere yet rich images, offers splinters of testimony and objection. It negotiates a constantly changing world, scavenging through scraps of experience, spaces around words, and remnants of emotion for a language that enfolds the enormity of what we cannot express.
In what way names were applied to things. Filtration. Not every word that has been applied, still exists. Through proliferation and differentiation. Airborn. Here, this speck and this speck you missed.
Numbers in cell division. Spheres of debt. The paradigm's stitchery of unrelated points. What escapes like so much cotton batting. The building, rather, in flames. Does flight happen in an order.
Dates to impugn and divulge. The laws were written on twelve tablets of bronze which were fastened to the rostra. Trembling hold. Manner of variation and shift. Vacillation hung by tactile and auditory cues.
Those which are of foreign origin. Those which are of forgotten sources. Place and body. Time and action. The snow falls. A falling snow. A fallen snow. A red balloon and a blackwinged bird at semblance of crossing in a pittance of sky.
Chroniclers enter texts and trade. Was to children dying before their mothers. Accounts and recounting. A nation's defense. Names of things made by human hands. Making famine where abundance lies.
Mapping needles. Minerals and gems. Furs and lumber. Alterations through the loss or transposition of even a single syllable. The next day is astronomical distance and a gnarled hand pulling up wild onion.
Placed on a large flat rock and covered by a series of smaller stones. Edicts of building for private persons. Remaining principalities long ago divided off. Under that place which is called the earth wall. Around which extends a savage, trackless waste, infested with wild beasts.
Near city walls. Shapes of battle helmets. Instruments for giving precision to ideas of size, distance, direction, and location. A projection of the possible state. Lay bare and make appear. The gates are wicked — fresh.
With shields. For war and fields. This hill was previously called — it is recorded that on this hill — When the rickshaw stopped, it was three o'clock. The heavy chains were taken off and they walked to the place of execution. One boy's shoe fell off, and he reached down to put it back on, taking a long time to do it. Fierce dogs have come over the sea.
Cutworms in tomato beds. Roots of a tree close to the property line have gone out under the neighbor's cornfield. Wherever kin of word is. Partnership of words is one of many members.
Glyphs to alphabets. In which words have indications of time. They had to eat as much as they could in a hurry. Baskets woven by bloodlet fingers.
Venom verifies. Minuscule pebbles embedded in domestic crops. With the soot covered rice pot — stood and sat, stood and sat, several times. Meals offered up from yet more pinecones burning.
A second class of words in which comparisons are made. The pond after rain, a lily. Watershed and water level. Coinciding glint of scales and scrapers. Conjectural poles.
Speaking and placing the speaking. To speak from the place of the word is to speak forth. Such noise in the ditches — the mills and farms.
Standing in proximity — think and love. See, meet, face. Incidence of generation. Walls of wattles, straw, and mud. A laundering stone and stones for the floor. Gently, gently level the ground. This is the leveling of the ground.CHAPTER 2
The transition from the stability and absoluteness of the world's contents to their dissolution into motions and relations.
P: Of what use are the senses to us — tell me that
E: To indicate, to make known, to testify in part
Burning eye seen
One eye seen
To a body of infinite size there can be ascribed neither center nor boundary
say . siphon
Sign scarcity, the greeting — have you eaten today?
Signal of peonies singing given to bullfrogs
Give ear to the quarrels of the marketplace
When the wheel (A) was turned, the gate (B) was raised, thus allowing water to flow from (C) to (D), giving clearance for the ship to pass beneath
lever . girt
Host and parasite
Implicated armed band
Where would one live
A custom of wrapping the head in willow branches
Hours whose length varied with seasons
Hours held by mechanical clock
An abstract metric to gauge daily time
Compendium to dispersals of currency
Farm and factory, bank and municipality
travel . athwart
What would identify the speakers of the idiom
Woodness and continual waking
Raging stretching and casting
Now chanting now weeping
The medicine is that the head be shaved, washed in lukewarm vinegar
The forehead anointed with the juice of lettuce or of poppy If the woodness lasts three days without sleep, there is no hope of recovery
All that we see could also be otherwise
All that we can describe could also be otherwise
The thing seen is the thing seen together with the whole space
Wakeful works under weeds (wed)
Tell a poor play
Money and mourning met
Sun and sorrow am sent
For fade and flame
Between March and April when spray begin to spring
As apples two of dread
Ourselves mowen so
Wild drakes make whom them bind
False nerve on hours red
Reeds which lie in fold
So harms hinges bore
To be at this thinking trod
Pray of love, one full keen
Why are many buildings necessary with so small a farm area?
The heat of the midday sun is obvious, but the pressure of populations on the inadequate areas of flat land has to be inferred.
For the flock, a brief flash announces possible food
mite a copper coin of very small value
a minute particle or portion
detent stop or catch in a machine which prevents motion and the removal of which
brings some motor into immediate action (as in guns, clocks, watches)
deterge to wash off or out, to clear away foul or offensive matter from the body
how to false bottom log whom I saw beautiful as a boy
shun . nestle
ravenous . seal
ash . gust
— to settle refugees — to remove land mines And their task leaked
cho-gah-jiib: a color — straw and wintered grass
The question is labor Skin loosening from bone is age
Ages longer than drought or rain
ee . [??]
Their [brilliance and their dependence]
Flowers [gladiolas, zinnia, delphinium]
Offset the houses
What the bluejay exacts [upside down] [inside] the half-broken sunflower, pecking
Scrip — a small purse carried by a pilgrim, shepherd, or beggar
One among fled many felt
Any different tissue constitutes a heterology
White light after breath (circling the mouth)//
The baby asleep in the house And two figures down by the barn
It burns. Membrane.
Further carbonization of matter
Terms stringent for lack of food
Root insect berry pass a mud inscription
Weeks of slaughter and remonstrance
Fed the children and animals first
Without interruption the entry log of days
Snow may be falling
"the woman I had anatomized in the past year, or A.D. 1315, in the month of March had a uterus "twice as large as one whom I anatomized in the month of January in the same year ... And because "the uterus of a pig which I anatomized in AD. 1306 was a hundred times larger than it can ever "be seen in a human being, there may be another cause, i.e., because it was pregnant and had "in the uterus 13 little pigs. In this I showed the anatomy of the fetus or of pregnancy
is that green the willow grove
flowers color river hamlets
call of (the) cuckoo
through brushwood gate
almost (forget) forgotten fish
narrowness (width) of the angler's boat
the span of the world (earth)
painted screen of mossy rocks
how many crows have just flown over(head)
beat time on the sailmast
what is to be thought of long years spent fishing
stocky purplish stalks, the white flowers they put (out)
Marriage is Arranged Mask
I stayed alive and listened
Orifices mercury and sulfur
So close ill
sever . thrift
Translucence of cut pears on glass plates
The robin's breast remained inert. Its eyes shone for four hours, but near three o'clock, a fly could be seen rubbing its legs over the now weeping eye.
Alteration in condition or fortune
The armory is approachable from the relative east and southeast
A directory of waste
From the practice of accommodating
Thus rang to the washstand, the birthing chair, and the crematory
To be added to the store of the human
Motion: that which refuses to be annihilated
Lifts up his burning
A stranger now a stranger in my clean head
Strokes of green and purple is crocus
Sepal : gape
Her name and her mother's name Her name and her sister's name
Carcass of coyote and deer separated by a stream linked by bones
Meaning the spectator part of the theatre but also, stall, birdcage, beehive
"On the 23rd of July of that year, I had taken a dog in good condition and well fed, "for a vivisection at the request of some of my friends, who very much wanted to see "the recurrent nerves. When I finished this demonstration of the nerves, it seemed "good to watch the movements of the diaphragm in the same dog, at the same operation. "While I was attempting this, and for that purpose had opened the abdomen and was "pulling down with my hand the intestines and stomach gathered together into a mass, "I suddenly beheld a great number of cords as it were, exceedingly thin and beautifully "white, scattered over the whole of the mesentery and the intestine, and starting from "almost innumerable beginnings. But presently, I saw that I was mistaken in this since "I noticed that the nerves belonging to the intestine were distinct from these cords, "and wholly unlike them, and besides, were distributed quite separately from them. "Wherefore, struck by the novelty of the thing
De Fabrica Humani Corporis, Vesalius, 1543
periplus voyage around a coastline or the narrative of such a voyage
muo the fifty-fifth term in the cycle of sixty used to count years, months, days, and hours
The fundamental tenet of all military geography is that every feature of the visible world possesses actual or potential military significance
What day is it
The light stops at glum
O'clock and f
A rain saturated tree trunk becomes a feeling
The city of one's birth and the people inside it
per dulying hidden, disguised. one who acts as a watcher or scout
perdure to continue, endure, last on
The two are begun
They are shaving ends of sticks
The two are discussing seeds
They are specimens
Glass does not burn but the hillside does
The two are a vine's exhalation
Then follow wood then water, then stones and metals, slow to heat
bbi-du-rrhuh-jut-dah askew leaning twisted
In the bowels and studies of inferiors
[when my father died and left me nothing]
[this is how I speak]
"helicopters hover" "embassy compound"
Relative fence, cling fence Someone is hiding an infant
Fish with two tails Fish with two heads
Indigestible over days and days
War is there and travel
The same is my sister, brothers, and mother
The father is thrush, white at birth and at dusk
Father is burying ground cool to the touch
This is some color but what color is it
"left their homes after two solid days of attacks"
"they had stayed to take care of their cow"
"the extreme cold froze medicine"
"religion and capitalism intersect in the muddy village twenty miles north of"
What started then and ate through most of a decade
The affliction is very near — and there is no one to help
The dead dog placed around my shoulders — weeds higher than my head
Standing as standing might
"I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying all the various members "and removing the minutest particles of flesh which surrounded these veins, without causing "any effusion of blood ... and as one single body did not suffice for so long a time, "it was necessary to proceed by stages with so many bodies as would render my "knowledge complete
The Notebooks, da Vinci
At least 250,000 acres of cotton and fruit crops are under immediate threat from the huge swarm of locusts which have invaded the southern plain from the Pamir Mountains
Roving simians have ripped the curtains off polling booths and pushed some officials preparing for parliamentary elections
In southwest and south-central Kansas the worst condition is plants stunted or killed off by extremely dry soil. Adding to farmers' woes are infestations of green bugs and brown wheat mites
Three villages were overrun by thousands of toads, and farmers in the area reportedly feel that the onslaught is a sign of impending tragedy. Children are said to be terrified by the toads and unable to sleep. The main road connecting the region with La Paz is coated with a thick layer of dead toads and the stench is said to be unbearable.
"peacekeeping troops" "tanks beneath the windows"
The inside of someone else's dwelling visible — a table and some chairs.
You start to count one, two, three, four ... until the explosion is near your neighborhood.
You can guess the position of mortar by this counting and try to find a safe place.
If the windows are gone, weak plastic is taped up but the strong wind comes and we stay awake.
In this South Cholla Province where all vehicles had been confiscated, we resorted to walking, the method of travel of the Yi Dynasty. We reverted back 300 years.
It's the same to be in the house, at the shelter or anywhere. There is no safe place. When we have no electricity, we are sitting in the dark and we know what life looked like before Christ.
The central organizing myth of comprehensive knowledge
Bent as light might bend
The openings in the human body
The age that one is
I will be my mother's age also
Color of robin's egg against spring grass
Compound of, here
After siege, used to dwell
Account of hard
Work, house with child, fear
Of marketplace, struck
jiph-jiph-jiph Swallow Swallow Bird
This is the gullet
Helmets make cooking pots
Tin cans make roofs
Not much left Not much left
To bring to a close
What is to do What is to happen
"We found one girl about 12 or 13 years old standing in front of the hospital. Without "any burns or apparent injury, she only complained of being thirsty. We didn't have any "drinking water, so I gave her some gargle. The next day, I found her dead in the same "spot. I didn't understand why she died. I can only surmise that her insides had imploded. "Acute internal injuries and not one mark on her body. No one ever knew who she was
August 6, 1945
Regarded among penury
Numb pie mum pie
jip-sae-gi ji-pah-raeng-e : show here
Look at that noise!
Numb pie mum pie
Abnormalities included growth retardation, fasciation, malformation, and variegation, with the latter being most prominent. As to variegation of leaves, the white portion took a linear, spotty, and cloudy form and turned completely white in extreme cases. The shade of white varied.
Unendurable, said one
cha-goph-dah, said one
flail : sounding
New buds did not sprout from the damaged side of trees within 700 meters of the hypocenter. Among the herbs that regenerated rapidly, there were sweet potato, taro, dwarf lily turf and big blue lily turf.
Sitting on haunches to perform everyday tasks on the order of trimming greens or rinsing clothes.
staunch . severance
How (would) the hills figure in
As to water
Strife and violence are harmful to a city. Each is responsible for deaths. The old men said the women must obey the laws, while the old women said that the men had proven responsible for evils to the city. Birds born tail first. Weak cattle. In accordance with misfortune. River full of sweet water. Fouled. Our life is. Half died. Meteorite is a pebble wedged in a dog's paw.
Excerpted from Commons by Myung Mi Kim. Copyright © 2002 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Pollen Fossil Record