Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

for all us mamas who didn’t know any better
for all us desperate mamas whose own mamas
left us too early
weaned us before we were ready
lied to us trying to protect us

for all us mamas who had to teach ourselves
how to make kimchi
because while our mamas were alive
we refused to learn
who didn’t want to spend the summers
“helping” at home

for all us mamas who had to unshame ourselves
learn the hard way how to love ourselves
who went straight through the hurricane
instead of around it like we were told to do
for all us mamas who refused to listen

for any mama who said the wrong thing to a small child
who sewed her shadow onto a dependent
who blamed everyone around her 
who pushed away those who desperately wanted her to be happy
who shut herself away and begged to be left alone

for any mama who got weighed down with family baggage
who took on the karma of her mama and her grandmama 
and great grand and great great grand
for any mama who survived occupation 
days and nights in the desert
stopped keeping count

for all the mamas broken and patched 
shattered and glued
uprooted and transplanted
remember us 
for any one moment
of sweetness

savor us
for how hard we tried
how our love for our babies
made us wiling to fail 
over and over and over again

11 may

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chakra Poems 2014


why so easily capsized?
where is the depth of your keel,
the anchor of your capacious pelvic basin?

break through the concrete of muladhara
to send roots down
through the trunks of your legs
and meet earth through your soles

you say i abandoned you
but i only sidestepped
to give you fuller contact
with thawed april soil
spongy and fecund


where uterus meets sacred bone
and sacrum broadens its warm orange palm

oxytocin-induced empathy
prevails over muladhara’s fear of survival

from the intuition of my ovaries
come my best ideas and my three children

where quads and adductors meet abdominals
while intestines churn
convergence of process with action

like the mangos 3 for 1 on the 99 cent shelf
ripe for whatever the day may bring


cable to the navel pulls
upper plank of the abdomen up
to raise the sun above the horizon

golden beam from your solar plexus 
enters the room first
seat of asmita:
who do you think you are?
how far will you go to be that self?

the guts to show up and speak up
be your yellow magnificence
no apologies
let others adjust to your brilliance



in the prana-filled cave of the heart
atman sits
like a thumb drive
carrying the archives of my unhurt self
already the green of healing
has generated new tissue

merge of eternal purusha
and the constant change of prakrti
cardiovascular chakra

a bell not to be struck
i contain a celestial song
ringing without touch

i rise above karma
beyond circumstances and history
my ancestors deliver me here
unbeaten and whole
to remind me
i am free to choose


what does the white elephant of your throat
long to utter?
what untold story lies in your larynx?

from the pit of your throat
sweet nectar amrita drips
into life juice or poison
you choose

croak or keen or croon
it doesn’t matter
only that the smoky petals unfurl
into necessary ululations
to transform brutality into wisdom


may your pineal perceive what your eyes cannot
in melatonin-laden lucid dreams

join the cardinal in the dawn chorus
heralding the morning even before the sun appears
you contain knowledge without information
certainty beyond physical evidence
as yet unmanifest

shiva and shakti 
ida and pingala
seer and seen


as you balance on your head
in the center of a bare room
you belong to no caste

evolved as you’ll ever be
you wrap your earthbound self
around the polestar of the eternal

you’ve forgotten all your reasons
to argue with reality
here you remain undisturbed
ecstatic in equanimity
hair standing on end

get ready for the big bang
of instant enlightenment
but come back to tell us all about it

Yoga Nun Detroit: Confessions, Rants, and a Manifesto

despite my instinct to disavow any state-sponsored "holiday," i was inspired by my friends albulena shabani and corina mccarthy-fadel, to write a poem a day and post it. starting 5 april 2014, and continuing throughout the month, it became my morning ritual (to the detriment of my pranayama practice), and i wouldn't let myself get out of bed until a poem had been dashed off. somedays it took 5 minutes. usually i gave myself 15-20 minutes, but a few poems required 45 minutes to an hour. my rule was that i immediately posted it on facebook without rewriting or editing. this broke my habit of crafting and workshopping, and forced me to let go of expectations. the response on fb was encouraging. i developed a community of readers ranging from old and new friends, bare acquaintances, and strangers, who gave me immediate feedback. to all of them, i am grateful, for not letting the poems fall into that great, silent abyss, and letting me know that eyes and ears were receiving. perhaps out of this project, more poems will arise, and perhaps not. no matter, no expectations. 

in the spirit of sharing, here are my april 2014 poems. i offer them on a community gift basis. i will not be sending any out for publication, but anyone can copy and share in any way you choose. as a courtesy, you can credit me and let me know. the chakra poems will be grouped in a separate post.
love and poetry, pkh

5 april

have you ever had a dream about a past so vivid
you couldn’t find your way back into the present,
not even through the internet?

have you ever made a playlist 
for your own funeral?

have you ever forced someone to stay alive
when they’d rather be dead?

have you ever jumped into a lake,
under shooting stars,
wearing your wedding dress?

have you ever pushed a squirming red baby 
out onto your dining room floor?

have you ever changed so radically
that you mistake your passport photo 
for a stranger? 

6 april

my crown rings until my scalp tingles
the stars lean in to listen

cloudbusters break up chemtrails
jesus and buddha party on mars

redwinged blackbirds who land on the windowsill
of the practice room
every morning
while i practice viloma

i lift my liver
and widen my diaphragm
to love courageously

i choose this mess
my one grimy unshackled life
in a city never to be devastated

7 apr

sleeping to the rhythm of my wheezing breath
waking into birdsong of impermanence
i dream that amy goodman is airing a special on you
heart racing i stumble for my phone
while the talking heads blather
sun’s steady rise over belle isle

8 apr

feigning fertility
uterus puffs and flows in
pheromone-induced bleed

i’m outta eggs
ain’t no more, honey
it was a good run
and yet
samskara of random moon cycles rages on

bring on the hot flashes
bring on the white hair
i pine for my crone self

10 apr


i was only generous 
when i wallowed in plenty

all those dinners i shared with you?
ha! more where that came from

now that i have unshackled 
the golden handcuffs 
of the middle class
to walk the proverbial contemplative path

come to realize 
i am just as stingy as the banks

i refuse to provide
the toilet paper
i hoard nuts like a squirrel
i’ve stopped shopping for you

i can’t help but notice the deficits
and not the surplus
still brainwashed by capitalism
i embrace scarcity like a lover
while ignoring abundance

so much for samadhi
now all i crave is almond butter
or a meal that someone else has cooked

11 apr

say what you need to say 
and get it over with

forget chops
be bare

don’t mistake prakrti
for purusha

embrace ephemera
but admit 
that’s all 
it is

12 apr


get you some samadhi, sister
get you some bliss
get you some kaivalya, brother
cut yourself some liberation

how about some ananda, sweetie
a shot of moksha
a long supta baddha konasana
then 20 minute shavasana

get you some corpse, man
don’t scrimp on stillness
get you some sattva, babe
some clarity
some luminescence

get you some translucence, baba
a clear smooth breath
sit yourself in your inner ashram, mama
sweep clean the temple of your heart

make your mind a waveless pond
smooth out the bumps of your samskara
sister, get yourself some silence
settle into total absorption

13 apr


like the budding maple
i have already forgotten winter
already forgiven february for freezing our pipes

i barely recall
the gusts that blew through our windows
ignoring the layers of plastic and duct tape

like the dandelions
i spring up again
in every crevice of soil
every sliver of light

sunshine bleaches out 
any shadow of hesitation
my body nods yes 
again, yes
please, yes

14 apr


your bra may be killing you
your sandwich may be starving you
your couch may be crushing you
your shoes may be trapping you
your phone may be bullying you
your thoughts may be stalking you
your feelings may be drowning you
your dreams may be tricking you
your thong may be twerking you
your prostate may be pricking you
your unconscious may be ruling you
your mind may be deranging you
your poem may be pondering you

15 april


i dictate this poem
because i refuse to lift my hands out of bedcovers
without radiators hissing me awake

secretly I am grateful for the clouds last night 
blocking my view of the blood moon

that attention-seeking cosmos 
what a pain

secretly I long for comfort 
more than enlightenment 
don’t let me trick you 
into thinking I am a sadhaka

really i am a mushroom
seeking only warmth and moisture
shrinking under frost
holed up until spring

16 apr


what you call garbage
i call random obsolescence
capitalism’s constant production
requires instant turnover

what you deem worthless
nourishes and clothes me
last year’s wardrobe
last weeks’s excess produce

what you call waste
i call fuel for my methane digester
your dish water flushes my toilet
your wood scraps contain my raised beds

what you call weeds
flourishes in my alley
bitter dandelion greens for smoothies
lemony sorrel for salads

i coexist with my redworms
as i bask in urban plenty
i ruin my reputation
as i bow in deference to the earth

18 apr


chew until liquid
breathe through your nose
unclasp your bra as soon as you get home

choose discomfort but not repression
embrace foolishness
fail better and with more pizzazz

eat bitter greens
and fermented foods from unlabeled jars
don’t be afraid to handle your scoby

sing while you bike
dance in the kitchen
when you’re pissed at someone imagine them at age 5

walk the precipice
practice emptiness
involute in order to evolute

ask for what you need
give until you’re empty
receive until you overflow

til you overflow
you overflow

19 apr


privilege is when i am up in the branches of the tree
and if i don’t bother to look down
all i see are those higher than me
whom in my smugness i can resent

it’s when i hoard the bananas
like everyone else at my level
who has hidden themselves
from those who don’t have any

it’s when i look away from the panhandler
at the neighborhood valero
their confusion over my buzzcut - “sir” “ma’am” “sir”
makes it easier for me to ignore them

privilege is how i unwittingly oppress my neighbor
who will probably never read this poem
because facebook is a luxury for smartphone users 
who have enough food and warmth
to take time to read a goddamn poem

20 apr

what’s the difference between window plastic and a blackbird?
alighting on the window sill at dawn
clear plastic contains my winged urges
keeps my feet on painted wooden planks
as i tuck my wings under scapulae

what’s the difference between fluorescence and sleep?
coils of glass confine luminary flicker
in too much electromagnetic radiation
i prefer that leaping flywalk we do in dreams
so i can reach you faster than light

what’s the difference between sunlight and moonlight?
the space between sternum and spine
between frontal lobe and hypothalamus
as i merge front and back bodies
i rise from the center of my arches into tadasana

what’s the difference between resurrection and breakfast?
perfect roundness of yolk
when the shell cracks
the stone rolled from the mouth of the cave
fragrance of frankincense hovers

21 apr

오빠 O-BBA

today you would’ve turned 52
more than twice the age
when we found you
on the bathroom floor

’87 august day in o’hare
i leave meiko with her dad
to weep alone in the united airlines terminal 
so i don’t upset her
as if grief and shock don’t show up in breastmilk
my back against an air-conditioned window
cold as stone
i shed silent airport tears

how did you see fit to leave us so soon?
my children and i would gaze at your album
and marvel at your superman muscles
quickly mythologized
you are forever good and kind and strong
we have long forgotten your suffering
your struggles
your illness
perhaps you died
of frustration

i will always only know you
as my perfectly proportioned
bodybuilder big brother
today you are more story than ache
the gap you left has been filled in
with our projections 
flickering on our mental screens
with our own unfulfilled hopes

22 apr


d’you think sharing your mama’s silver
with your revolutionary co-op
will take the blue out of your bloodline?

you figure giving everything away
will heal generations of class abuse?

just cause no deed is in your name
you think you can wash your hands
of all that stolen land?

you think supporting the middle class
is the answer to marx?
like good pensions and top-of-the-line health insurance
are the goals of class struggle?

what good is your shrinking bank account
when you still act like a master?
how can you be a member of the collective
when you wave your vocabulary 
and your degrees around like flags on poles?

bourgie baby, even your ancestors
are trying to keep you down
you can give away your money
but you can’t shed your bourgie shine
can see it a mile away
you’re still basking in that bourgie glow

23 apr

cycling into morning headwind
northwest gusts
bring possibility of april frost
scent of alaskan rainforest and sweetgrass
and udon from the anchorage airport
spirits of the north
place of elders and newborns
i pedal harder
to be enveloped in you

24 apr


every once in a while
a baby rooster gets mixed in with the hens
the hens pay no mind as they poke at slugs
but the rooster is all about protecting his would-be harem
wearing his poor self out with his flapping and crowing

inside the house straitjacket of default 
enforces social habits
how easily i become “the mom”
another “the dad”
half of us play a game of 
waiting for the dirty dishes to pile up
the other half doesn’t even notice
half of us shop and cook
the other half eats 2am frozen pizza
and doesn’t know where the knives are kept
half of us sleep upstairs
while the other half stays downstairs 
with lights on and doors ajar 
to watch comings and goings like sentries

revolution starts at home, no say?
i dismantle default gender roles
when i swing my sledgehammer
at the crumbling plaster ceiling 
i defy capitalism when i forage, barter, and create
but who will take out the compost?
buy new toilet paper?
wash the sinkful of dishes?
again and again and again?

30 apr

you don’t have to be a poet if you don’t want to
you don’t have to take your hands out of the bedclothes
to type some bullshit in the dark
you don’t have to live life with so much energy
you don’t have to burn so many damn calories every frigging day
and be so hungry like ALL the time

no one’s making you wake up so early
no one asked you for your outrageous advice
no one wants your hella whack opinion
no one’s making you decolonize your delusional mind

so what if the revolution is already raging?
so what if you pose as the avant garde?

so what if you question everything to death?
to death, y’all, to death!

enough already
enough words
enough april
enough spring thunder 

sit down already
return to stillness

be here empty



Friday, January 10, 2014

Iyengar Yoga Detroit... nurturing community!: What Does Personal Practice Mean?

Iyengar Yoga Detroit... nurturing community!: What Does Personal Practice Mean?: by Peggy Kwisuk Hong
Yoga practice? Or yoga study? What's the difference? Why are they each valuable?
Learn how to create your own practice sequences at my workshop this Saturday, 12 January, 1-4pm, Home Practice 101

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Merry Christmas from Detroit, y’all. It’s been a hell of a year, hasn’t it? I hope this letter finds you healthy and joyful and warm.

As most of you know, I moved to Detroit in February from my home of 25 years, Milwaukee. The decision was borne of a need to take the next step of walking the talk, to become a student once again. and to leave in large part my accumulations of comfort, resources, and status. I felt Detroit had something to teach me, and I have not been wrong, although many of the lessons have been friggin’ hard!

In February, I moved in as house manager for Capuchin Corps Volunteers Detroit. I lived with 3 volunteers, ranging from early 20s to mid 50s in age, who were spending a year working at local social service nonprofits. My job, in exchange for housing, was to organize the house repairs and renovation. As I became integrated into the house and community, the Cap Corps House on the east side of Detroit, increasingly became a gathering place. We hosted drum circles, neighborhood meetings, visiting poets and filmmakers, international Couchsurfers, Allied Media Conference and Detroit 2013 attenders, and returning citizens, with abundant food for all. To tell you the truth, it was a bit much at times! But it revealed how much so many of us longed for beloved community, a place of welcome, and meaningful friendship in “liberated territory.” And showed us what was possible.

Several of us in the house knew we would be moving out in August when our terms ended with Cap Corps. We all longed to continue living in community and wondered what this might mean. Detroit has no shortage of beautiful, well-built housing from the early 20thcentury. Sadly, too many are empty and dilapidated. Grace intervened, and through a series of events, 7 community members ended up moving into a turn of the century, 3-story gem down the street from the Cap Corps House.

In August, we started up New Work Field Street Collective, with the purpose of “meeting mutual needs by embracing neighborly interdependence through self-sustaining industries.”

What does this all mean? When I moved to Detroit, I became active at the Boggs Center, founded by Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, and down the block from the Cap Corps House. I joined the New Work committee, exploring the concepts of New Work/New Culture/New Economy. In a post-industrial, post-capitalist and post-socialist, post-oil, post-JOBS era, how do we survive and thrive? The jobs aren’t coming back, y’all, in case you haven’t noticed. Our house, NWFSC, is the beginning of an answer to the question. Here, we have several enterprises: New Work Leathercrafting, Homespun Hustle (sewing, knitting, quilting…), Food2Gather (meals, food preservation, carry-out), Healing House (yoga, Capoeira, meditation, massage), and more to come. In the coming year we plan to engage in developing alternative energy for our neighborhood and beyond.

What this means on the ground is that we’ve been struggling to fix up an old house, and we’ve only had heat and hot water for a few weeks! Still, no shower, and only 5 radiators installed so far in a 4000+ square foor building. Nevertheless, we’ve made amazing progress (I will spare you the gritty details!) and most days, we embrace this immense challenge.

Meanwhile, yoga, thank God, continues to sustain me on every level. Simultaneous with all this, we opened Iyengar Yoga Detroit, a regional center for comprehensive study. We began offering classes in September and we are growing daily. This week, we begin construction on our rope wall! You are most welcome to make a tax-deductible contribution to our development.

What does all this outer activity mean for my inner life? It’s been another year of recognizing privilege, and calling it out, dismantling it, leveraging, or transforming it for communal good. It’s been a year of working through complicated social dynamics as we create a multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational household. In this past year, I’ve been in more uncomfortable situations than in my last 10 years in Milwaukee. My learning curve has been steep in my 50th year! And that is a good place to be. At this growth edge, I hope to stay vital, relevant, and useful for decades to come.

It seems my children (Meiko—27, Katja—25, Malachi—22) and I are all asking the same questions: what does it mean to be human in the 21st century? How do we live sustainably and harmoniously and joyfully? I am deeply blessed to be sharing housing with Meiko! We relate to each other as adult roommates, but also enjoy the mother/daughter bond. And our food! Mmmmm. She is developing her food enterprise, giving massages and helping to run a healing center, and apprenticing with me as an Iyengar Yoga teacher.

Katja is living in a treehouse in the rainforest on the Big Island of Hawaii. She is growing vegetables, making jewelry, subbing at the local Waldorf School, and taking care of a slew of cats and a dog. Malachi graduated from Occidental College this year, and living in Los Angeles. His radical social justice heart is leading him toward law school. Needless to say, my children have as much, if not more, to teach me than I have to teach them. They amaze me and I am deeply honored to know them.

May your coming year be full of the light of learning and love. May you thrive in this era of major transition and develop your own “new work.” May we remember, on this holy day, that Jesus came as a revolutionary, to liberate us all from oppression. May we all create beloved community in the coming year, wherever we are. Do not hesitate to contact me, kwisuk63@gmail.com, 313 454 1401.

So much love, from here to there.
still the Badass Yoga Nun, peggy kwisuk hong

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Since July when I last blogged, ten of us have come together to create New Work Field Street Collective, in which we embody the principles of New Work/New Culture/New Economy. We strive to produce as much as what we need as possible under our own roof and eventually support ourselves and our communities through self-sustaining cottage industries,

That’s the plan, right? What this means in actuality is that in August, we moved into a huge, stunning turn-of-the-20th century house without water, electricity, or heat, with peeling paint and crumbling plaster. We have asbestos covered pipes, we have old lead paint, we have mold in the basement. Everything that could have been stripped from the house had been taken by plunderers during its vacancy: pipes, radiators, light fixtures and bulbs, wiring cut in every room. Even the doorknobs were stolen.

Over the course of months, we finally have electricity, running water, one working toilet, and a kitchen sink. Friends and friends of friends have donated a refrigerator (never mind that the door doesn’t quite seal), a stove (even though only one burner ignites, we can light 2 of the remaining 3 with a match), and we have raised money for a boiler and radiators to be installed soon.

In practically any other city, what I am doing would be considered outrageous. Exposed asbestos, lead paint, carrying buckets of water from the neighbor’s spigot, huddling by the space heater for warmth. But in Detroit, I have tons of company. Practically everyone I know has lived like this, if they’re not still. Some folks have chosen to live without central heat or running water. Some have absolutely no choice. I get no pity here, it’s just not that big a deal.

I have been in survival mode since August, and I have limited energy for yoga practice, Korean language study, blogging, songwriting, meditation, or any of my other self-sustaining practices. As long as I had to make appointments for bowel movements, showers, and internet, depending on the generosity of my neighbors, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I understand just a bit more what the experience of the marginalized in our society must be. At the same time I recognize that the way I am living is similar to how humans have lived for millenia, and still how much of the world lives now,

No matter. I still have wild greens growing in the alley for smoothies. We’ve discovered a slew of untended apple trees in our neighborhood, and one glorious Bartlett pear tree. We wake to the smell of apple crisp, and use the dehydrator as a heat source as it dries apple chips. We have several musicians in the house and more in the neighborhood, a living room full of musical instruments, and spontaneous drumming and jamming circles on any given day. We have poets and emcees and visual artists and chefs. We have former gang members and Black Panthers-cum-community organizers, connecting folks and groups. We have gallons of home-brewed kombucha: since our main oven doesn’t work, we use its pilot light for fermentation. We have beautful hand-craftedleather belts, soft reusable cloth menstrual pads, and our first Field Street Quilt. We have food for months, including dozens of quarts of jams, apple sauce, tomatoes, and much more.

Last night was a breakthrough: I took my first hot bath in my own house. Not because we have hot water and a tub! That would be so 20th century. No, it happened because I scrounged up a round plastic basin I found covered with basement grime, cleaned it up, and boiled up a kettle of water. Thanks to my years of yoga and supple hip flexors, I was able to squeeze myself, knees to chest, into the steaming water for the best bath ever in my entire life. Upstairs, Crystal, recovering from a death-defying car accident, lay in bed strumming ukulele. In the living room, Ty improvised on his accordion. Listening to strains of Beirut, “Let it Be” and “Here Comes the Sun,” as I scrubbed the callouses off my feet, it was once again, pure magic in the New Work House.