Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer.
Do our efforts make any difference at all? Do we matter? Ed Bok Lee’s “Random Floating Cells With Style” alludes to the darkness, doubt, and difficulty surrounding the strenuous, moral work of overcoming fear. Compared to the unfathomable vastness of the universe, our greatest striving for a greater good can seem ridiculously puny and ineffective. And yet, this poem suggests, in time, all of our cell-tiny moments of loving one another might collect together with trillions of others, to multiply into something as wondrous as stars.
Some time ago, I scheduled this poem to be published next week, on June 14. But this week, I found myself reading and re-reading Ed Bok Lee’s poem, sharing it with friends. As we journey through these uncertain, violent, dark, and frightening days, this poem takes on specific, situational meaning. In this poem is the desire that we might all find the courage, as Ed writes so poignantly, to “shed enough fears in love not to burst.”
We must not, however, forget that too often brutality has overpowered the most fervent hope that we might “love one another.” This week, recent events have made the word “epilogue” shine like the nearest, therefore seemingly largest, word in this poem-constellation.
An epilogue comes at the end of a story, but is separate from the final chapter. An epilogue is needed when an essential element of the story is unresolved or missing. This week, “Random Floating Cells With Style” is a hauntingly beautiful, but utterly sorrowful elegy for George Floyd.Tracy Rittmueller
Random Floating Cells With Style
Ed Bok Lee
To love one another with quantum certainty is to volumize the stars.
It might take some time, a few million years, but for your efforts–
moth-white, fuzzy, brightened blurs. There, someone
once upon a time loved despite. There, another
just shed enough fears in love not to burst. Each evening,
this movie of love plays out like popcorn blinking lively in the sky.
As if your epilogue were an ancient, omniscient satellite to whom
time no longer matters, and matter always exceeds the count.
Ah, you bonus illumination in this vast multiplying apart.
You gathering of random floating cells with style.
You–all of you–dying trillions of times every hour
to recommence each new forever inside these eyes. Look.
Look at me seeing you seeing me from the beginning of the universe
Never forget: wherever, whenever you are, is the history of all you loved
in the dark.
Ed Bok Lee is the author of Whorled (Coffee House Press) and a recipient of a 2012 American Book Award and the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. Lee is the son of North and South Korean emigrants–his mother originally a refugee from what is now North Korea; his father was raised during the Japanese colonial period and Korean War in what is now South Korea. Lee grew up in South Korea, North Dakota, and Minnesota, and was educated there and on both U.S. coasts, Russia, South Korea, and Kazakhstan. He teaches at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Other honors include the Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice Award) and a PEN Open Book Award.
Why no writing prompt this week?
At the important moments of our lives, we turn to poetry. In those moments, a poem goes beyond words to express what is deeply unutterable. And then, we are moved to silence.
“Random Floating Cells With Style” Used by permission from Mitochondrial Night (Coffee House Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Ed Bok Lee.