you are in the diode archives fall 2010



Sometime Sweep


Never mundane, the Brooklyn Bridge
Swivels through sunlight, spokes going, a stone soaring

While I sit half-asleep on the D train
Wobbling through Robert Musil, wavering in and out of the same sentence

Suddenly Ulrich saw the   Suddenly Ulrich   Suddenly Ulrich saw the whole thing in the

Rocking in rhythm with the other sleepers, the slumped, the shrunkfaces
Slivering open at the mouth
                                            comical light of the question

Trying to pull myself out of the suck
Of sleep, an “epic, comic struggle,” as a teacher of mine once put it, in words not exactly
     like that


                     there was certainly an abundance

A Bridge-glimpse through girders
Picks my head up a little
                                                                      of mind around  

                                           other half-conscious heads tilting towards it

The Bridge is a statement, always flexing across the river

Always stalwart ambition
                                               posed beyond the flickering

Girders, graffiti, D train going the opposite direction
Girders flashing like extra lashes on eyes that can’t go wide enough to take in all of it


This is the best homage to the Bridge, the natural prayer
Of sleepy heads turning towards it, offering the tribute of what they have left

Of their attention
                                the only thing wrong was
                                                                            dimmed minds
Briefly firing
                        the only thing wrong was that
                                                                          the distance

Between themselves and the Bridge like a physical regret

                               the only thing wrong was

The distance between
                                         mind itself
                                                                what they could have been,                                                                                                                  was
What they still, possibly, could be
                                                         devoid of mind
                                                                                       and now

     the only thing wrong was that mind itself was devoid of mind


I feel the Bridge as a challenge and a rebuke
What’s happened to you, mild man, what have you become

He was himself, after all

You used to attack books like this you used to mow them down
Now you sit repositioning your pants loathing that guy’s thigh for touching yours
He was himself

What happened to your day-by-day determination
To work through the world’s volumes to build up the stamina to match me

                   one of those specialists who had renounced responsibility

Crane walked me, Mayakovsky walked me
                                                                      for the larger questions


The Brooklyn Bridge requires a total poetry

Never nods off
Never makes itself feel better by looking at the Manhattan or Williamsburg Bridge dozing

Never resents the East River
For lapping against it, the millions of overweight people for walking all over it,
The guided tours with their caesurae
Of historical morsels, the joggers jouncing it, pollocking their sweat

The water bottles brimming over its trash cans,
Scuttling its planks, the bicyclists superciliously moving through them flaring their
     messenger bags

The bad poetry thrown at it daily, the cantos of crap,
Young poets climbing its cables at midnight to feel gusts they can’t summon at their


The Brooklyn Bridge never manages
Its website, never shops online for patio furniture at Kmart,
Never explodes at the handle
Of a mini barbecue grill from Target for failing to screw on properly,
Never dreams of coming face to face
With Samsung Customer Service to give them a piece of its mind


The Brooklyn Bridge never gives away pieces of its mind

Always a braining fire
                                            He was the less visible

                  of the two
                                       searching for
                                                                   a cathedral of conveyance

Always mustering
                                    a possible handle to grasp
never muttering

Never merely, never flinching
                                                      the real mind of the mind


To LeBron’s Elbow

I, too, sometimes go numb. I’m numb now,
      deadened all over my apartment on the day after
The Chosen One crooked you by His side
      on national television to announce His decision
to kill Cleveland, which somebody, ESPN or
      one of The Chosen One’s “Team” or perhaps
The Chosen One Choosily Himself, named
      The Decision, with no irony at all, thus branding
a ready, snappy, definite-articled name to go
      alongside other such Cleveland catastrophes,
The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move,
      or in Rust Belt French, The LeBacle,
The Chosen One’s maddening subtraction
      of Himself from the Cavs’ historic, i.e. paralyzing,
Game 5 loss at home to the effing Boston Celtics
      in the 2010 Effing Conference Semifinals,
a team He hammered at home in the playoffs
      two years earlier with that massive dunk over KG’s head
that you helped author, when the Celtics
      were younger, fresher and eventual champions,
and The Chosen One had a far less supportive
      supporting cast. What happened to Him in Game 5?
He looked out of joint, to say the least, loitering
      outside the three-point line while the Celtics drew
further away and The Non-Chosen panicked,
      nonplussed as to why He wasn’t demanding the ball
and ramming it down Paul Pierce’s fatfish face.
      Only the most important game of the season
and, in retrospect, the history of the Cavs’ franchise,
      and there was The Chosen One touching you
instead of the basketball, as if petting His own tentativeness,
      saying it was okay. After the game, fresh from
fuming on the subway ride home listening to too much
      Rage Against the Machine, feeling capable
of dismembering another person for the first time,
      specifically Rajon Rondo, I opened your Twitter page
and saw that you had checked to see if The Chosen
      Balls were still attached and could report that they were,
but “oddly singing showtunes.” This didn’t help,
      blaming His Balls instead of taking any
responsibility, just the fact that I was scouring
      your Twitter page shows how ridiculous everything
had become after we were all witnesses to no less
      than the withdrawal of a god followed by His press
conference afterward, at which He acted as if nothing strange
      had happened, saying you felt fine and that everyone
overreacted to one bad game because He “spoiled”
      people with His play. I wanted to see fury,
the same fury He unleashed on top of KG’s head
      now directed at Himself as He admitted His failure,
how He Himself was to blame for the loss,
      not His teammates or coach; but of course
this would have been a staggering admission
      on His part, accepting sole blame for the first time
in His career, saying, Yes, I now have the players
      around Me to win a championship, but I came up
against the moment of My greatness and I failed.
      In fact, I took the moment off. I was in la la land.
“Every career has a tipping point when you have to pour
      cement on the foundation,” Bill Simmons says,
and The Chosen One was flinching under the first
      plops of that cement, coaxing open His own narrative
umbrella to shield Himself from the hardening
      of other men’s judgment: I of course was pouring
it on, saying there was no way He could leave
      Cleveland after this, that He’d never live down
the embarrassment of quitting on the Cavs
      in the playoffs only to quit the entire city;
but even as I thought this I knew it was false,
      of course He could leave, of course He could live
down the embarrassment, if he went on to win
      multiple championships somewhere else He’d be
remembered for those, not for His failures;
      He could re-write crapping out on Cleveland
as the inevitable discharge of crappy coaching
      and teammates; He could submit He’d taken
His hometown franchise as far as it could go
      before banging His elbow on the ceiling; yes,
He could work you in there, slyly, after a couple
      of championships, sitting down with Jim Gray again
propped by charity children, smiling and sipping
      from His vitaminwater and admitting that, yes,
you were bothering Him more than He let on,
      but let’s just leave it at that, Jim. I can see all this
playing out in His mind on the court as you went
      numb, feeding that slim fissure of doubt
into His feeling of invincibility, worming in
      the weft of the new narrative; perhaps there was
a twinge of regret as He felt something in Him
      diminished; but quickly that was buried
in His mind as He dug His new, wider foundation.
      And what did anyone expect? The “keenest
of human torments is to be judged without a law,”
      Camus writes in The Fall, and all of us (even you)
construct narratives to ease ourselves out
      of judgment, slip its prim stranglehold
on our identities; naturally, someone thinking of Himself
      as “The Chosen One” is not going to stand by
and be Prufrocked, “pinned and wriggling on the wall,”
      as everyone with a Twitter account (even you)
tells Him He is this or that but never going to be
      anything else, without maneuvering in whatever
way He can to spring Himself out of history
      into possibility again, even if that means giving up
His Chosen identity; after all, haven’t I moved
      to New York to spring free of certain
judgments I now call “small-town,” haven’t I
      (along with my chorus from Cleveland) damned LeBron
out of a desire to resurrect my own ruined narrative
      from the cement pour of His Last Judgment
aka The Decision? He’s stupid, he’s cruel, he’s breathtakingly
      narcissistic, lost, a coward, a quitter, all ways
of scooping up some of that cement and dumping it
      back on him. But while the war is still on
for LeBron James’s narrative, as he marshals his forces
      in Miami to shatter our attempts to set him,
the narrative for Cleveland has been cast,
      the city subsiding into its own cynicism again,
hardening into more poor history, this time
      through the masturbation of a television special;
and all I can do to feel free of that cast
      is to run my writing hands over its contours,
rub some feeling into me as LeBron tried
      to do with you, leave an imprint on how I’m being
shaped, showing I’m not completely useless,
      that were an actual god to come along at the end
of the game and need me to raise His right
      hand, He wouldn’t have to switch to His left.  


Jason Koo is the author of Man on Extremely Small Island, winner of the 2008 De Novo Poetry Prize (C & R Press, 2009). His recent work has been published or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, La Petite Zine, Vinyl Poetry, Jabberwock Review. and The Owls. The winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center, he teaches at Lehman College, where he serves as Director of Graduate Studies in English. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat, Django.