“Breathing Fee” by Tanya Ko Hong
Talk about the wood
stacked high in the living room
and what it costs
to breathe in my home—
raw wood, oak
so long and thick—
like a dead elephant stretched wall to wall.
He said to acclimate takes time
and more money—heartwood
slow to open, to breathe—
one week became a month and more.
I couldn’t breathe just looking
at the pile of planks—
it had to go.
I wanted to speak my mind
instead of smile— be nice—
nice girls don’t speak their minds
or question men—
that would be cheap.
How dear it is to breathe.
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Tanya Ko Hong’s artist statement: My art is a border, a threshold between English and Korean, voice and voiceless, secrets and truth, dark and light. I came from South Korea, where as a woman I was taught to be submissive, silent. Poetry was forbidden, but absolutely essential. Living in Los Angeles, I’ve learned what it means to use my voice. My work engages creatively and critically with the role of women and diaspora. My works says, I am here and won’t be silent. My warm hands melt the walls of marginalization. I stand at the shoreline, collect the shells of our untold stories. I am here to bring our sisters to the lighthouse. We will support and create our art in freedom.–Tanya Ko Hong (고현혜)