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What We Push Against by Alison Roh Park


In Park’s city human songs document the current drag of history ... These poems make an honest and compelling testimony to the push of the human spirit in a city, within a city, within a city, within. 

—Joy Harjo

Early Bird, Off Jamaica Avenue

At El Rinconcito,
you eat meat
with your hands
and I pull shells
off shrimp, spit out
fibers and antennae
from a spicy mariscada. 

Later, in a kitchen
with no pots or pans, dim winter
sky behind drawn curtains, some
smooth tune playing
on the radio, we laugh as I carve
an apple into a makeshift pipe. 

That’s some white boy shit, you laugh,
smoke weaving heavy
around your nose and mouth.

Your worker hands, thick
nails—can’t get the dirt out
from under them—curl around
its firm curves, skilled.

All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

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