Brood

Brood

by Kimiko Hahn

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Overview

In Brood, Kimiko Hahn trains her eye on the commonplace—clothespins, bees, papaya, perfume, poached eggs, a sponge, fire, sand dollars—and reveals their very essence in concise evocative language. Underlying these little gems is a sense of loss, a mother's death or a longing for childhood. "Brood" connotes the bundling of family or beasts, but also dark thinking, and both are at play here where the less said, the better.

Kimiko Hahn is the author of ten books of poetry, including most recently, Brain Fever (Norton, 2014). She has received numerous honors, including the PSA's Shelley Memorial Prize, the PEN/Voelcker Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a distinguished professor in creative writing at Queens College (CUNY) and lives in Forest Hills, New York.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781946448156
Publisher: Sarabande Books
Publication date: 07/03/2018
Series: Quarternote Chapbook Series
Pages: 32
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Kimiko Hahn is the author of ten books of poetry, including most recently, Brain Fever (Norton, 2014). She has received numerous honors, including the PSA's Shelley Memorial Prize, the PEN/Voelcker Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a distinguished professor in creative writing at Queens College (CUNY) and lives in Forest Hills, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Damselfly

When you spot a damselfly

Caught in a spider’s thread

Blow gently to release its wings

As well unknot one's dread

Three Tiny Clothespins

Wood and metal, I pinch you open for doll clothes, cotton or silk. Gauze, as well. Pinch onto a string—a fishing line is jocund company —all in a row like our socks and sweaters on a cord in in the boiler room where cold is stored.

Sand Dollar

Oh, calcium in radial symmetry! Oh, little creature so unreal! Oh, urchin mucking along the foreshore! Oh, I but little thought / What wealth the show to me had brought : I lifted you from the shallows and now I’m filled with sorrows. There was a great deal more to you than your home—than my pathetic currency.

Folding Fan Advertising

Kikkoman Soy Sauce

Because of my vacant mood I save stuff. I think I wanted to decorate my memory palace, not realizing it was already so, even given eviction and theft. There goes Auntie’s lacquer teapot! My kindergarten hand-print in clay! Pearls! But you never belonged to me. I’m not sure I even care about you, odd ephemera in the debris of my childhood, Father’s home. Evidence, let’s say, of home. Or, at least, of Father.

Noise

In a wakeful spell, the clichés lull: the neighbor’s teething baby wails, a grating cranks shut, a woman calls out, a man shouts back, the sanitation truck pulls to the curb with engine, men and suction, the upstairs flushes, my husband snores. Finally I drift in the traffic’s hush. Stay— the stillness gave no token. A baby grew inside me once. A gurgle only I could hear. Birds cry beyond the sill, as well.

Overripe

A slice across the orange pink to seeds, abundant as deer droppings. They spill from the cavity except the one that ceases minute travel to skin. Pungent flesh, bereft papaya—in another context , a quickening, a stench. Nothing but nurture for an animal; for this animal, a narrative tracing an event. Then finding comfort— surcease of sorrow.


Spring

Shaft of orange. Shaft of gust. Of lilacs. Of the next-door girls’ yellow bus, exhausted. Of the husband with morning papers at the front door. In back, deer at the salt lick. Salt on the table. Two poached eggs in flowered cups. Slats of shadow as well. Shafts of kind nepenthe.


Fire

The previous owners planted narcissus in the back and since we never sit there in spring, I clipped a dozen for a vase that Whitney gave me on my fiftieth birthday, forgetting the room will smell like an electrical fire. A fire— now burned into my bosom’ s core where little else sparks but the teaching of iambs. The internal rhymes rather than the infernal.

Brood

1.

In rooms glossy with sun as well as shadow from pine, father forbade any kind of "long face." Even if you wanted a doll that wept, if you didn't want to practice flute, if you wished to linger with a boy in a Chinatown alley. And what did mother want? I wish I knew.

Brood

2.

I was five. I was told Be Quiet but no one told the baby so I told her. Until I was sore with myself. Now, decades later, although we count on one another, she rarely calls. Of course not. Why would she want to call the one who told her shut up at the dinner table, in the back seat of the car, in the dark around our bunk beds—? In reality, I was speaking to myself.

Brood

3.

A plastic tortoise-shell brush from mother turned a honey yellow. Those were the days of peacock-blue hair, clipped and cellophaned by Earla, before she jumped from her high-rise. My gut tells me for whatever reason— she was thrown.

Brood

4.

The bees weren’t bees but they stung. A backyard picnic. A parade of children marching under branches and over roots. A swarm of dust. A flight of yellow. Father swatted the children with towels. Another father sprayed with a hose. Then ointment over arms and faces blistered by bites. Why are stings called bites? Why are all stings called bee-stings? And where were the mothers? The children watched television for the rest of the afternoon. I loved Lucy, too. I was seven.

Brood

5.

Drugs were forbidden, a directive in the radical political party I joined in my youth. I’d never tried any so there was no sacrifice. We were also prepared to move out at a moment’s notice just in case we were wanted for arrest (for peddling newspapers describing moribund capitalism) and we unplugged telephones during meetings on dialectical historical materialism because the apparatus in a phone could be reversed to transmit our discussions to agents in vans. I wasn’t crazy about hawking papers at factory gates, 6 a.m., but I loved the vision of seizing power—another thing I didn’t get to try.

Brood

6.

I loved studying clouds: stratus, cumulous, cirrus. Especially cirrus. Latin for horse's tail —forty years after eighth grade Earth Science I still remember this small fact. What else? First kiss, astonishing and awful and so gooey I thought I'd catch something although the rising judo champion was a catch. Years later I realized what I sensed then: how blurry he appeared, how little he conveyed aside from a prankishness with his ghost-writer father. Certainly nothing to offer a girl in the way of clarity. What else? I recall a white record player—very mod—for the White Album. Making no friends so as not to place myself in harm’s path. Rolling my own granola. Sewing a granny-gown from a purple India bedspread ( Simplicity #9486). Watching TV shows from four o’clock to six, then seven to nine, learning little to no math or science. I just learned yesterday that the more one reminisces, the more one revises.

*

Horseshoe Crab

When you spy a horseshoe crab

Flipped over on the shore

Right it gently in the tide

For trustworthy love, a true rapport

*

Queen-Anne’s-Lace

Pull out a Queen-Anne’s-Lace

By every gnarled tendril

To hone your skill at tatting

As well as thwart a rival

*

Sponge

When you bathe a child

In a kitchen basin

Lather - do not scrub -

Or tempest you will hasten

Ashes

When the puppy snarfles for breakfast

I wake to radiator gurgling

then feet crunching the reticent snow.

Before I was born, Mother sewed her own suits.

What do her ashes know?

*

Father shoved snow off the supine roof.

Mother crafted Christmas ornaments:

glue and glitter and red balls.

No tinsel, no angels.

Her death started in the living room.

*

For bonsai, pliers the size of a nail clipper,

spools of wire and a fist-sized rock.

One bore a petite pomegranate,

never to eat, not to touch.

Her death began with a baseball bat.

*

In the vineyard, he secured the strongest cane

from training stake to fruiting wire.

Pruning with handsaw and lopper.

He'd leave a spur for the next season.

He shoved her away with direct objects.

*

In a cold snap if one pipe freezes,

the rest may freeze as well.

Even before the puppy snarfles.

Even before a baby sister arrived

in the misleading car in Mother's arms.

*

After the war, after she met Father,

she smoked menthols but didn't cha-cha anymore.

She’d light up and blow smoke

out the apoplectic window.

He found the ashes on the sill.

*

Fireflies blinked for mates or prey outside

the savvy window of my own first home.

On the stereo, a bluesman cried,

I need my ashes hauled!

The dress was too smart to wear.

*

I tucked away our baby’s pink layette

in circumspect mothballs

for a christening that never took place.

As well, a doll that Auntie crocheted.

More than anything, I love tidal pools.

*

I know her ashes are at Father’s, lost

in his charnel of junk mail.

He claims that thieves have stolen that box,

his knob cutter and root hook.

He says, remains aren’t ashes anyways.

*

Winter stripped everything to the limb

and dejected nest. No angels, no crèche.

I don't know whose recollections are suspect:

After leaving Maui, Mother learned to swim.

She loved tidal pools more than anything.

*

In my kitchen, the logs blink in the fire—

through blinds, the wind blusters and

the browbeaten trees creak in the orchard.

The rain pours then stops for sun. If

he lost Mother's ashes what more could I stand?

*

Omusubi tastes best on black beaches.

Because Mother never learned to swim,

she watched her five brothers from a blanket.

On the intransigent subway, I don't know if I've passed

my station. (His mother said her social station —)

Iron: I’ve bitten my lip again.

*

Mother showed our baby how to sift flour

and how to crank an egg beater.

After Father lost her,

he barred everyone from the rooms and yard

where at night, long red worms

slither up from the ground.

*

Her ashes know: before the puppy snarfles,

Father shoves snow off the supine roof;

For bonsai, use pliers the size of a nail clipper;

In the vineyard, the strongest canes;

In a cold snap, a hair dryer on frozen pipes;

Fireflies blinked for mates or prey outside

While I tucked away my baby's pink layette.

Her ashes know their box is in living room

Where she didn’t cha-cha anymore.

Where has winter stripped everything to the nest?

In my kitchen, the logs blink in the fire and I know

Omusubi tastes best on turbulent shores.

She knew to show granddaughters how to sift flour.

Ephemera, mouse droppings,

pillows torn to feathers:

Father stays to nest,

what the magpie knows in its bones,

hollow for flight; its collarbone,

fused for stability.

Her collarbone showed off

pearls, jade, the coral necklace from Florence.

The strands are buried here,

my mother, long gone. I flew

down the stairs when I was a child.

He slipped a few steps,

covered in leaves and ice. He hit his head.

He is not a bird.

Perfume

Always a taste on back of the tongue— perfumed from an unseen censer. Mother, a dozen years dead but still a flight of scent: spearmint gum, a leather clutch, sesame bath-oil beads. The shadows gone. Shade flown—a kindness, that raven. As the dictionary tells it: plunder, seize, devour, prey. She would have said, to take away by force.

Thirst

Rising mid-night, the aging woman’s wont, for water, for the cold tiles to cool perspiring even in December, and for the quiet that is a hum— quaff, oh quaff. Solitude arrives with irony: now that the daughters have moved away I wish for them to bring me coffee and clamor. Even news of distant wars.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments iv

Damselfly 3

Three Tiny Clothespins 4

Sand Dollar 5

Folding Fan Advertising Kikkoman Soy Sauce 6

Noise 7

Overripe 8

Spring 9

Fire 10

Brood 11

Horseshoe Crab 17

Queen Anne's Lace 17

Sponge 17

Ashes 18

Father's Nest 22

Perfume 23

Thirst 24

About the Author 27

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