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New Year's on Rockland Avenue

The pastor stops his sermon

to start the countdown. This year,

God can wait ten seconds to finish.

We’ve already lined up at 10 PM,

somber for the bread and blood, stifling

our laughs at the sincerity of it all.

I’ve curled my sister’s hair, highlighted

her cheekbones, put on our sparkly heels

post selfies, even with our brother. Our friends

ask where we’re going. When we say church,

no one believes us. We’re surrounded

by Korean banners declaring Peace on Earth,

a Christmas tree, a nativity scene. We send snaps

to our friends, each of us captioning

pictures with the best Jesus jokes. We shake

everyone’s hands, glad for the booming echoes

of Korean. We forget how to say

Happy New Year, so my sister exclaims,

Happy Birthday instead. We don’t have

a family tradition, but we do this every year

even through my mother’s lamentations

that her children are stepping further away

from God. But when I’m home, my sister

still asks if I believe in everything

we grew up with, and I say yes, I do.

I believe in grandmothers in crystal pinks dropping daisies

on the top of my hand on New Year’s Eve,

after everyone has prayed for a year’s worth

of good blessings. I believe in a patch of grass

turning into a volleyball court where it’s filled

with flittering girls, making flower chains

long as a jump rope asking me to try.

When it breaks, they laugh and make another.

Dutifully munching on Costco cookies

in the church cafeteria after midnight,

when our parents tell us that it’s our turn,

we find our brother to tell him it’s time to get

our blessings. We lumber up the red carpet

steps to the stage, kneel, wait for the pastor

to say our names with conviction with his hands

on our heads, asking God for a litany of things

our parents wrote on a piece of soft paper.


SU CHO lives in Milwaukee, where she serves as Editor-in-Chief for Cream City Review. You can find her work in Poetry, New England Review, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and elsewhere. Her essay “Cleaving Translation” was the winner of Sycamore Review’s 2019 Wabash Prize for Creative Nonfiction and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. You can learn more at www.suchowrites. com or follow her on Twitter @su__cho.


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