Sonia's Poem of the Week #34
As a child, I remember half wishing for something bad to happen because bad things have the potential to be transformative. 

This poem seizes on the complexity of that desire as an adult, as a person who has experienced loss. It occupies the tension between the emotional possibilities of catastrophe and the price to be paid for revealing them. "I want the clarity of catastrophe but not the catastrophe." The poem moves through a series of images to communicate the strength of that clarity and its potential for disruption. One line I keep repeating to myself: "I answered the phone, and a channel opened / between my stupid head and heaven." But the poem never loses touch with the stakes of "catastrophe." Especially in the middle stanzas, grief and real loss anchor the poem. That's why its ending is so good—violent and hovering on the cusp.

Catastrophe Is Next to Godliness
By Franny Choi

Lord, I confess I want the clarity of catastrophe but not the catastrophe.
Like everyone else, I want a storm I can dance in.
I want an excuse to change my life.

The day A. died, the sun was brighter than any sun.
I answered the phone, and a channel opened
between my stupid head and heaven, or what was left of it. The blankness
stared back; and I made sound after sound with my blood-wet gullet.
O unsayable—O tender and divine unsayable, I knew you then:
you line straight to the planet’s calamitous core; you moment moment moment;
you intimate abyss I called sister for a good reason.

When the Bad Thing happened, I saw every blade.
And every year I find out what they’ve done to us, I shed another skin.
I get closer to open air; true north.

Lord, if I say Bless the cold water you throw on my face,
does that make me a costume party. Am I greedy for comfort
if I ask you not to kill my friends; if I beg you to press
your heel against my throat—not enough to ruin me,
but just so—just so I can almost see your face—

This poem was published just this past Sunday in The Atlantic. Franny Choi is on Instagram and Twitter


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Sonia Feldman · 2529 Detroit Ave · Cleveland, OH 44113 · USA

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