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How Manifestos Are Made

By Noah Arhm Choi

If I fail my mouth this story plays again.

Back home he yanks mama's mouth
round into screams, burns
her vocal cords to sing the real blues
of men who can't stand to be exposed
so stare the world down in rage
and red, not the toothbrush too hard red
but the red of knuckles busted by teeth,
teeth ground down into grit,
eardrums that vomit
sticky one note dirges red.
She leaves

her nightingales stranded in the winter
of his cold cocktail gins,
croaks out a song
when he bends her neck,
bruises a darker green
as the skin rushes together
in his fist,
a bouquet crumbling
in the relentless boil
of a man never satisfied
by just one song.

If I fail my mouth this story plays again
can't close, closet, or cease.
I must be the skip in the disk.
Be the fracture that makes the needle jump out
and land on anything but this.

Added: Monday, July 7, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Noah Arhm Choi
Photo by Savannah Lauren.

Noah Arhm Choi is the author of CUT TO BLOOM, the winner of the 2019 Write Bloody Prize. They received a MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and their work appears or is forthcoming in Adroit, Apogee, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. Noah was nominated for Best of the Net in 2022, shortlisted for the Poetry International Prize, and received the 2021 Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize, alongside fellowships from Kundiman, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. A Lambda Literary Writer in Schools, they work as the Director of the Progressive Teaching Institute at a school in New York City.

Image Description: Noah Arhm Choi stands outside in warm sunlight. They wear a grey coat with the collar upturned, a black button-up shirt, and a small gold hoop earring. The sunlight gleams on their short black hair. Behind them in the distance and out of focus are the tops of buildings. 

Other poems by this author