Jee Leong Koh’s “Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting” [Read the poem here] (Published in Issue #6 of Cha)
The ‘o’ in Jee Leong Koh’s poem “Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting” opens like a rumour, a creeping union of ouroboros colluding softly in “cold air”, “coursing water” and “love”:
Though I dream all the time of union, cold air
aerated by air, coursing water saturated by water,
I’ll imagine never meeting you, my imaginary love. (L1-L3)
Beyond an obvious tonality and acoustic personality, there is an ominous symbolic boom roving through the poem, a conscious potency around the ‘o’ to produce a sort of cognitive completeness, an atmosphere of consolidation, a closing of obstinate odds:
Perhaps you are not so near in time and space.
On a planet dried of air or water you survive
by reciting poetry from memory, a line of verse. (L4-L6)
An odd, hypnotic episode, the ‘o’: as if doubt and sorrow compress to nothing. Astrology locates the topography and origins of all movement in zero, in omega. And orgasm, millions of organisms floundering and wallowing, lovers momentarily low-lying, tonguing wounds. For Jee Leong, it is a cautious oxygen, a slow progress through something more opaque:
Perhaps you are in the apartment above mine,
hooked up with my neighbor, cursing softly, and I wish
you could read, here, the entry of your voice: fuck… (L7-L9)
‘O’, then, is the originator, the beginning of things; the only sound component in the lexicon: constructed as unmodified demonstration, its return journey opening at the top of the throat, down through the mouth, to the top of the tongue:
you’re exerting a force equal to the earth’s—
a capsule taken, paradoxically, by spitting it out.
This is not so ridiculous as some may think… (L10-L12)
A zero, a nothing, a hole in the ground, will only grow with more burrowing: the more existence is exhumed, the more its absence expands. The ‘o’ continually makes its insidious voyage into the long tunnel of the poetic contrivance, dissolving in echoes:
for didn’t Tsvetaeva and Pasternak live like this,
not on one planet, but on two hurtling asteroids.
We have nothing, Marina wrote Boris, except words. (L13-L15)
Now, coolly, as though to oppose one solitary ordnance of knowing, the fifteenth letter of the alphabet steps in front of the fourteenth, and Jee Leong’s journey completes; the voice responds: ’no’.
A poet’s boast, carried by neither air nor water.
But, oh, we can live for months by howling
the medial syllable of razminovenie: no. (L16-18)
So “no” roams the cosmos, looking for its opposite, its one impossible rejoinder in an afternoon, a footnote, a supernova, a snowstorm.
“But, oh, we can live for months by howling…” (L17)
The connotations of “razminovenie” are not astronomical. On the contrary, one or two other twelve–letter formulations – one core focal veto, ‘no’ – continue down the soft shores of our conclusion. Autonomously, and with growing technophobia, one posits, for good poetics only: a pornographer, a demonologist, two paternosters, and an ethnographic and dishonorable governorship, not paranormally hymenopteran, but so like Jee Leong. Mono-vocal luminosities. Urbanologies. Tyrannosaurs.
Jeee Leong Koh is the author of Payday Loans (Poets Wear Prada Press) and Equal to the Earth (Bench Press) His poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2007 (University of Virginia Press) and Best Gay Poetry 2008 (A Midsummer’s Night Press), and has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Born in Singapore, Koh now lives in New York City, and blogs at Song of a Reformed Headhunter.