Zoo

Zoo

By Cathy Park Hong
Ga       The fishy consonant,
Na     The monkey vowel.

Da     The immigrant’s tongue
          as shrill or guttural.

Overture of my voice like the flash of bats.
The hyena babble and apish libretto.

Piscine skin, unblinking eyes.
Sideshow invites foreigner with the animal hide.

Alveolar tt, sibilant ss, and glottal hh

shi:               poem
kkatchi:       magpie
ayi:               child

Words with an atavistic tail. History’s thorax considerably
cracked. The Hottentot click called undeveloped.

Mother and Father obsessed with hygiene:
as if to rid themselves of their old third world smell.

Labial bs and palatal ts:

La        the word
Ma       speaks
Ba        without you

I dreamed a Korean verse, a past conversation
with Mother when they said I was blathering unintelligibly
in my sleep.

The mute girl with the baboon’s face unlearned
her vowels and cycled across a rugged phonetic map.

Sa      glossary
Ah      din
Ja       impossible word

Macaws turned into camouflaged moths.
The sky was overcast, the ocean a slate gray

along the wolf-hued sand. I dived into the ocean
swam across channels to islands without flags;

replaced the jingoist’s linotype with my yellowing
canines and shrilled against the anemic angel who

cradled the bells that dictated time and lucid breath.

Cathy Park Hong, “Zoo” from Translating Mo’um. Copyright © 2002 by Cathy Park Hong. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

Source: Translating Mo’um (Hanging Loose Press, 2002)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Cathy Park Hong

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Cathy Park Hong

Biography

Cathy Park Hong is the author of Translating Mo'um, (Hanging Loose Press, 2002); Dance Dance Revolution (W.W. Norton, 2007), winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize; and Engine Empire (W.W. Norton, 2012). She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the NEA, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her writing on politics and her reviews have appeared in the Village Voice, the Guardian, Salon, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.