Lackadaisical Does Not Mean Lack of Daisies

Two poems about language and landscape by Cindy Juyoung Ok

dried flowers

Lackadaisical Does Not Mean Lack of Daisies


I was not able to hear whispers well as a child and I worried this would cut short my friendships.
At that school a teacher let us do creative assignments about the origin of our ten weekly vocabulary words.
It seemed important not to ask another child more than once or twice to repeat their secrets.
I wrote about dire as coming from a town that punished residents 
with an offering: die or consequence?
Many ESL programs uses cognates as a bridge, a strategy mostly relevant from European languages.
Everyone picked consequence and eventually the question became dire consequence?
Children of parents born elsewhere sometimes overcorrect for their parents’ pronunciations.
The consequence was comparable to death so it could be assumed to be always dire.
A Spanish-speaking child might mentally remove their parents’ e sounds before s at the beginning of a word.
My mother’s wedding dress was rented and her mother made Christmas trees of umbrellas.
Or a Korean-speaking child might mentally trade their parents’ l’s and r’s in the middle of a word.
Another fable I wrote, for the word lackadaisical, had to do with some lack of daisies.
The two children would then overcorrect establish to “stablish” and overcorrect establish to “estabrish.”
I first learned the English language at a pre-school whose blue nap cots and wide slide I remember.
Hypercorrection reveals an anxiety around the appearance of knowing and belonging.
There are distinctions that are difficult to learn about a language from textbooks, manuals, and calendars.
I was competent, teachers assured my parents, just silent as I socialized with the other toddlers.
For example, it is not obvious that “I lie like a semi-colon across the white bed” presents two meanings.
To tell that story, I first had to tell the schema of daisies and what they represented.
When I wore my shoes on the wrong feet for my knock knees, classmates followed in reciprocal silence. 
Reading when language is vehicle will rarely indicate that “lay” presents two tenses.
When I started talking after several months of teachers’ concern, they say I spoke paragraphs.

Moss and Marigold

My country is broken, is estranged, is trying, we write,
as though there is such a material as a country, as
though the landlord doesn’t charge rent for life lived
outside the house. When it comes to survival there is no right
way but there’s no wrong way either. The country is
a construction, with each writing becomes more made.
I am making it now, here, to you—to say my country
provides an illusion of synthesis, as my landlord supplies
a fantasy of individuality. When I picture a country,
the ground is newly stormed—the snow a kind of revision
in its refusal of fission. But when I imagine the suburbs,
it is always sunny, with caution tape around oak trees,
landline lights blinking, and pictures of parents laid
as bookmarks. My name is the city and the city’s in my name:
I floss in the dark and write on icicles. The only borders
are my body’s, my counted and settled and made state.

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