JEE LEONG KOH


Jee Leong Koh is the author of Steep Tea (Carcanet), named a Best Book of the Year by
UK's Financial Times and a Finalist by Lambda Literary in the USA. He has published,
three other books of poems, a book of zuihitsu, and a book of essays. From a forthcoming
book, Connor and Seal: A Harlem Story in 47 Poems, to be released by Sibling Rivalry
Press in the spring of 2020, the following four poems are spoken in the voice of Connor.






Nebraska

From the bluff
we turned our backs on the river
and opened a trail
as Lewis and Clark.

We spotted the grizzly,
Tom did, glummer than Meriwether,
and gave him wide berth
slowly on our stomachs.

When I hit
some raccoon shit, Tom changed
my name to Pvt. John Collins,
tied my paws to a tree,

whipped me with the switch
of a branch,
rubbing his orange until he shot
gum.

We hurried home, it was getting dark,
and watched dad slam the boot
on boxes of his stuff
and drive off.

I was the one to break
the silence, kept up during the whipping—
Tom, let's go back
and tie me up.






Art Show at the Center

On a black dummy,
a shawl—not cashmere,
cigarette butts.

Apple seeds arranged
like tea cozies
around the ankles of trees.

So this is what art is!

You are one thing and you
are used for another.

The Artist-in-Residence
flashes me
a smile, showing her
New York lights.

The star of the show:

cheap yellow soap—three blocks,
height of my chest,
voluptuous sculptures
of urinals.

The urge to use them!
Spray them
and still be clean.

Use them up.






A Tale of Two Cities, Three Maybe
(with apologies to Jon Ims and Trisha Yearwood)

She's a baby from Vietnam,
from Saigon, if the truth be told,
She's a girl from Nebraska City
and sixteen years old.
She's unusual, that's for sure.
She's askin' him out for ice cream
at Nancy's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor
by Dick's Drive-In.

She's in love with the boy
She's in love with the boy
but after a whole year of eatin' pussy
he knows he ain't in love with Katie.

She's smart as a whip,
a head turner, a head spinner, a looker,
but he has eyes only
for her quarterback brother.
In the lab, she makes up excuses
to peek at his dissection.
He sneaks his looks in the locker room
at Scott's pink ass and Joe's erection.

She's in love with the boy
She's in love with the boy
but after a whole year of eatin' pussy
he knows he ain't in love with Katie.

He tells her at Farm Aid
he's applyin' to New York University
This town's too small for big dreams,
he complains, to let her down easy.
With her ma's heart condition,
she ain't goin' anywhere.
Trisha Yearwood looks so small on stage
as her voice choppers into the air:

She's in love with the boy.
She's in love with the boy
but after a whole year of suckin' boner
she knows she's been conned by Conner.






Arrival New York

Shirtless bartenders
popping the cork.
Drag queens hosting
Devil's Pitchfork.
Derrick, Sam, Alberto, Jee,
can such places be?

Flirtations flit.
Beauty meets.
Grown men deep
kissing on the streets.
Derrick, Sam, Alberto, Jee,
can such places be?

Talk we must about
coming out
in the calmness of
Identity House.
Derrick, Sam, Alberto, Jee,
can such places be?

Can such places be
for good?
They feel too good.
A neighborhood,
Derrick, Sam, Alberto, Jee,
can such places be?



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