from Break of Day, the Great City


by Jason Koo






Sunlight and shadows on the page.


The feeling of the present moment, light blue veins


Of words on the underside of the page.


Stillness in the garden. Sirens. A helicopter.


Flowers, fire escapes, leaves of trees, the years of them

Just here, a history.


Yesterday, memories, today


Vacuity, a pleasant emptiness, a looking around


Dumbly, no I present, just a body

With flowing eyes, hand with moving pen.


Ears making sounds.


Now thoughts—marriage, mother and father

Of the bride, sister, the long years of that stretching out,


How might it develop?


She wakes after him on a Friday

And comes out to the garden to say good morning.


He pulls hairs off her sleep pants.


Let’s have eggs, he says.

Do we have any eggs? she says.


We have one egg, he says.

Thinking of the shape of it resting on the wide top shelf


Of the refrigerator, ready to roll anywhere

At any moment, a smooth, clean wobbling of possibility.






Men are working on the building next door

Like a giant tooth that hasn’t been brushed


In a very long time. A light rain falling,

Feathering my face as I look up in judgment,


Some errant spray from the nozzle of water

Stuck in the mouth of the neighborhood


By the airborne dental technician standing by

To clear away the blood and the muck.


This tooth is hurting. All the cavities

Of windows festering for years, opening up


Lanes to the nerves of human lives inside.

The men stop at each window, hammering


And drilling. The nerves are throbbing inside,

Or by now they’ve all been novocained


By the noise. I can barely stand it in my garden

Below, up at 7:30 AM to read and write


And enjoy my coffee and already they’re at it

From several wooden scaffolding stations


Climbing up and down the tooth by rope.

This tooth just did too much stewing


In the sugar of snowflakes over the years,

Too much washing shit down with acid city rain.


And now it, all of us are paying the price.

I remember the dentist I went to last year


For a root canal who after the procedure

Couldn’t get the crown to fit right, three times


Putting that icky clay mold in my mouth

To measure the fit and three times getting it


Wrong, once the crown actually squirted out

From between his fingers as he was pulling it off


And it nearly went down my throat. Eventually

I paid a cosmetic dentist in Manhattan $1500


Out of pocket to get the crown right, an Asian man

With many degrees, new gadgets, technicians


And a newsletter. Sometimes you have to pay

So you don’t get drilled on for the rest of your life.






Thinking today of the quiet of mornings, the lovely quiet in which you can hear your pen moving, the little popping of the bubbles in the cappuccino beside you. A studious quiet in which nothing else matters but your self, your life, getting those things down. No judgment, no remorse. No self-consciousness—yet. You read Henry Miller and take flight inside yourself, or perhaps to yourself, find yourself again, that open awe of being, pure living consciousness. Funny how just an hour ago you were swearing at the cappuccino machine and telling your girlfriend it was useless that you made, or tried to make, two coffees, because you only poured water for one and now couldn’t get the cap off to pour more in and she was already leaving for work. And this frustrated pour, this inability to unleash—wasn’t this an image of your self? Trying to pour two cups but only measuring the water for one, you diffidently measure and end up crammed. And now the full hot pour into prose, no worrying about the lines on the cup. So much measuring and calculation over the past year, so much planning and projection, all the figures, addition and subtraction and multiplication, the percentages, the balancing, the fuck-you-in-your-real-self crap. And the turbulence beneath that, the need for that other life of underworldly delirium, the intimation of new empire. Always on the cusp of that other life, that anti-self your truest, most transcendental appearance. Lately you wake up thinking of it, or her, the pronoun just a stand-in, a momentary image representing a whole line of conquests just borders of a self you’re trying to obliterate.