‘Hiawatha Highway, Minneapolis’A Poem by Ed Bok Lee

From His Collection Mitochondrial Night

March 25, 2019  By Ed Bok Lee

A ghost train just passed through me like a magician’s saw

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Bursting my favorite reveries into one

      Endless reality. I didn’t mind.

I could idle here forever in my car, straddling

These wrist-thin train tracks, decades defunct.

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      Before and after and beside me, other drivers

Wait for the traffic light that will mean we can inch and creep.

I spend more hours a week with them, and a cart-pushing Tibetan, and those three

Natives picnicking under the overpass with malt liquor and sunflower seeds,

Than I do with good friends.

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      Sometimes when particularly gridlocked, there’s time to step out

And root around through all the other limbs and severed incarnations

On the asphalt; all the years of office windows

Smeared horrifically right up against your sleep.

              Eventually, though, the light

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Turns to green enough times and the traffic

Herd rumbles forward into a world

No one has figured out yet how to love any better for more cash or a faster phone.

But it’s there; you can smell it beneath the axle-grease heat of summer and drone of
galvanized surf,

  Where once bison blinked patiently to cross back home.

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Used by permission from Mitochondrial Night (Coffee House Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Ed Bok Lee.

Ed Bok Lee
Ed Bok Lee
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 and his father 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 later on both U.S. coasts and in 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.

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