The Argument: A Poem by Cynthia Dewi Oka


Call it paranoia or narcissism, but I swear the moon is
eyeballing me through the window’s grime. I said, “No,
the bed is not a random search,” and all the tiny hairs
on my arms stand up in protest.  On the grand stage
of the train station across the street, a man is playing
out a scene from Hamlet, a bottle in place of the ghost
of his father.  The single source of light in this room,
a reading lamp bought at Target after we flew our lives
across the 49th parallel, is an egg-colored fist bravely
pumping its yolk into the charcoal silence between us.
Look, by now the rice has dried, each grain stuck fast
to the dinner plates, which will be hell to wash later,
and I can’t stop thinking about that motherfucker
Kliney, who masterminded the great escape of 1945
from Eastern State Penitentiary.  Skinny, nondescript,
with posture like a bent wire, when he spoke syllables
rattled like dice in his cheeks. The guards trusted him
with maintenance duty and he dug a twelve-foot deep,
hundred-foot long tunnel from cellblock seven to just
outside the fifteen-foot thick prison wall, electric lights
and all.  The labor alone took 18 months and he was
recaptured in 3 hours. Which is about how long we’ve
been at it this time, bracketed only by the pathetic
chirping of our son’s Nintendo DS.  I am so afraid of
being seen. At Knight Park, there are trees that will not
make it through the winter, but no Help Wanted sign
on the Christmas-lit store windows. This morning I saw
a fire-breasted bird in the backyard. It could have been
a metonym for the frost. I’m still betting on it to sing.


Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet and author of the collection Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (2nd Ed. forthcoming from Thread Makes Blanket). A 2015 Pushcart Prize Nominee, her work appears in a wide range of print and online journals. She lives and writes in Collingswood, New Jersey.

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