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.