All the Aphrodisiacs

By Cathy Park Hong
blowfish arranged on a saucer. Russian roulette. angelic slivers.

ginseng. cut antlers allotted in bags dogs on a spit, a Dutch girl

winking holds a bowl of shellfish.

white cloth, drunkenness. a different language leaks out—
the idea of throat, an orifice, a cord—

you say it turns you on when I speak Korean.

The gold paste of afterbirth, no red—

Household phrases          —pae-go-p’a     (I am hungry)
                                             —ch’i-wa          (Clean up)
                                             —kae sekki       (Son of a dog)

I breathe those words in your ear, which make you climax;
afterwards you ask me for their translations. I tell you it’s a secret.

gijek niin tigit rril—the recitation of the alphabet; guttural diphthong, gorgeous.

What are the objects that turn me on: words—
han-gul: the language first used by female entertainers, poets, prostitutes.

The sight of shoes around telephone wires, pulleyed by their laces, the
               blunt word cock.          
Little pink tutus in FAO Schwarz,
when I was four they used to dress me as a boy,

white noise, whitewashed. the whir of ventilation in the library.

Even quarantined amongst books, I tried to kiss you once.

Strips of white cotton, the color of the commoner, the color of virtue,
the color that can be sullied—

my hand pressed against your diaphragm, corralling your pitch,

a pinch of rain caught between mouths,

analgesic, tea. poachers drawing blood—

strips of white cotton I use to bind your wrist to post, tight
enough to swell vein, allow sweat—

sweat to sully the white of your sibilant body,

the shrug of my tongue, the shrug of command, sssshhht.

Cathy Park Hong, “All the Aphrodisiacs” 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)

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Poet Cathy Park Hong

Subjects Relationships, Love, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Language & Linguistics, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Cathy Park Hong


Cathy Park Hong’s first collection, Translating Mo'um, was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press. Her second book, Dance Dance Revolution, was chosen for the Barnard New Women Poets Prize and will be published by W.W. Norton in 2007. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Her writing on politics and her reviews have . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Language & Linguistics, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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