Harlow’s Monkey

This poem was originally published in the Winter & Spring 2021 issue of Poetry Northwest. Tiana Nobile’s interview with Associate Editor Helene Achanzar can be found here.

We learned to give ourselves away
early on. We used to hide the bruises,
used to scratch our arms until they bled,
until our body was a weeping wound.

The cage exists only in our mind.
Kick down the door. Matchstick.

Whether of wire or terrycloth, we all burn
the same. We gasp for air and taste the bitter juice
of roses, petals dried and clipped
to the pages of our chest.

At the feet of our gods, we pile our bones,
muscles threaded to flesh. The fresh liquor
of unchained thought burning the roof of our mouths,
we take back our tongues, drink handfuls of water.

In what shallow grave will we bury the words
we killed? Eomeoni. Abeoji. Daejeon.
Moon Yeong Shin.
We deliver them
to the dirtmother and her family of worms.

The past mushrooms and burns
in atomic flush. We sling a new sun
from the pit of our stomachs
and raise our wooly hands, fingers clenched.

Tiana Nobile is the author of Cleave (Hub City Press, 2021). She is a Korean American adoptee, Kundiman fellow, and recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. A finalist of the National Poetry Series and Kundiman Poetry Prize, her writing has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The New Republic, Guernica, and the Texas Review, among others. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more, visit www.tiananobile.com.