This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Mia Kang. 


So I Bought a Little City…

Rome made a deal
with the surrounding areas.
Let’s be friends, said Rome.
What is friends, said the world.

An engineering feat, said the city.
Bridge here, road there.
Listen, we’ve got
concrete, a subtle command

of langue, i.e.
strategies of substitution
within syntagmatic
strata. Lose

your conjunctions, gain
the tenacity of proper
nouns. An encounter, if you will,
of synonyms, in which the plot

points lead us
from your “I” (mother
in the garden; books
on the shelves)

to mine: your spoons
and fields and daughters
suddenly singing with force
Rome Rome Rome Rome Rome


What Happens Now: Parable of a Roman Outcome

Remus holds his
breath, plays dead. From now on,
he’s on the side

of his brother, holding
the bloody rock over a broken
line—once drawn, already crossed.

Remus lives and lies
about it. Head canted,
throat open. He lets you

win. Eyes closed, sees brother
build around him. Remus presses
the pain inward, sparing

the killer
the spectacle
of the will to end. Then the breath

goes; Rome rises. Remus lies
in state, skull
crushed in, hilltop

incising scapula. Remus gives life
away, not because
he doesn’t love

the world, but because
he is no longer
for it. Violence gives us

a choice: my love,
is your future
worth it?



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