Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Medica Visits the Witch Doctor

by Monica Ong

Monica Ong

My work investigates cultural silences that shape the med-ical-emotional landscape of family diaspora, extending from China to the Philippines to North America. These experimental image-poems juxtapose diagram and diary, bearing witness to underrepresented histories of the body.

"Medica Visits the Witch Doctor" is based on a found Chinese acupuncture diagram and some Filipino witchcraft folklore. Growing up, family elders spoke of the body in magical ways. I was often haunted by superstitions like not washing my hair at night because it would cause me to go blind. At the same time, expressions about personal thoughts and feelings were indirect at best, and more likely to be expressed as a toothache or foot pain. Thus, I had many touch points to write from when imagining the stories of pain hidden in our bodies that are seeking release. Thus, my last constraint was to include the word “press” in some form within each verse in order to have a unifying gesture.

This work was created during my time at the inaugural Literary Hybrid/Book Arts Workshop at the 2013 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.

Monica Ong is a visual artist and writer dwelling in experimental spaces. She completed her MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design, and is also a Kundiman poetry fellow. Her work can be found in Tidal Basin Review, Lantern Review, Drunken Boat, and Glassworks Magazine, to name a few. She has been exhibiting work for over a decade, with a forthcoming show at the Institute of Women and Art at Rutgers University. She designs to support these habits while happily fumbling around in motherhood.