Two Poems from Payday Loans – Jee Leong Koh

April 23, Saturday
My father doesn’t know Zeus from Zeno
and doesn’t care. His philosophy works
through his hard hands, and not through easy talk
(We have two ears and one mouth. Robert Koh),
when he makes the giant a.c.’s fever go
from power plants and when, at home, he checks
his children’s tantrums with one palm. He takes
charge, you can say, of climate control. So,
when schoolbooks tell me how these writers dig
their dads in whose furrows they trod and trod,
how for their starry pops those authors burn,
or how yet another posse fights the big
bad artist-paters, Ah! I thank my god,
I am the spark of an electrician.


April 25, Monday
May good flowers always bloom for you
And good fortune always be yours too.
The red paper pocket my parents sent
presents six crisp one-hundred dollar bills
they can’t afford but will still send until
I’m married or dead. Needing every cent
to pay the cost of New York City’s rent
while ambition hustles to fulfill
desire, I don’t swindle, steal or kill
but pocket the greenbacks and their portent.
I think of Hart Crane, strongly doubtful, bent
on being a writer, dining on goodwill,
talking up muse and love like, yes, a shill,
and plucking the roses the rich soil lent.


Jee Leong Koh is the author of four books of poems, including Seven Studies for a Self Portrait (Bench Press). The Japanese translation of his most recent volumeThe Pillow Book (Math Paper Press) is published by Awai Books. His latest book of poems will be published by Carcanet Press in 2015. Born and raised in Singapore, Koh lives and works in New York City. The two poems featured on in The Still Blue Project come from his first book, Payday Loans, which will be reissued by Math Paper Press in 2014.

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