990: Feeding the Koi

990: Feeding the Koi

990: Feeding the Koi


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

I distinctly remember my 25th birthday. I was living in Loxley Court, Olde City Philadelphia. My roommate Ellen decided to have a last-minute intimate gathering for me — emphasis on…gathering. We bought bags of party sized chips, pretzels, a plastic tray of sad looking vegetables and bottles of pale ale from the corner store. We invited friends from the art center where we worked.

However, it being a Friday, word spread, it seemed, to every artist within a ten-mile radius. Before I knew it, I was greeting and handing off bottles of Heineken at my door to actors, photographers, poets, musicians; to both friends and strangers.

My multi-CD player spun music for hours. Then, someone hit the stop button on Lenny Kravitz’s “Flowers for Zoe,” then turned the living room into a stage. She performed a monologue from a play, then several others read poems, then, Questlove of The Square Roots, later The Roots, grabbed a pot and wooden spoons from the kitchen and kicked a beat. Black Thought and Malik B broke into a freestyle, one of them rhyming Major with “Rager,” in honor of the occasion.

I slowly took in the young and aspiring artists before me, crowded on the sofa, sitting on the floor, leaning over the wrought iron railing of the mezzanine of my apartment; a rising sense of community and confidence overcame me.

The year prior, I became a young father, and was unsure of the direction of my life, how to proceed responsibly as a parent. I possessed a serious fear that I needed to pursue a stable career in corporate finance in order to provide for my son. But that evening gave me a vision of my life as a writer among artists.

As if I needed an allegory to support my new pathway, later that evening, I accidentally locked myself in my bathroom. For five minutes no one heard me call for help. My anxiety rose as I wondered how I could be forgotten at my own party. Then, Ahmir showed up and found a paper clip and picked the lock. I was freed out of my narrow confines.

Today’s poem exemplifies those moments when sometimes we cannot speak or act on our truth because of debilitating fears. And on occasion, art is what provides clarity when we seek signs beyond the surface of our worlds.

Feeding the Koi
by Rosanna Young Oh

I turned thirty-four and it was spring.
The distant war

we had thought would end 
did not end. My friends

were busy trying to get pregnant,
making love on schedule.

I visited my neighbor’s 
water garden at dusk.

Below the pond’s mirror:
a school of jewel-like koi, weaving

and rifting. I wondered 
whether I was 

a dutiful daughter
or coward, whether returning

to Jericho would make a mess
of everything.

Fear had carried my life,
and I was still afraid.

As I scattered pellets
into the dark, the koi shot

beyond the floating plants
to where the food fell.

Later, from my bedroom window,
I watched the moon set

with my heart in my mouth–
its longing, a tenderness.

“Feeding the Koi” by Rosanna Young Oh from THE CORRECTED VERSION, © 2023 Rosanna Young Oh. Used by permission of Diode Editions.