Dobok by J. Alexandria


Cheap, creased cotton. White faded grey over years,

its loose embrace greets me like an old friend.

Crinkling cloth, zip’s rasp music to my ears.

A strip of black, with my rank on the end.

Balanced on the grubby floor. As one we bend,

chamber. Strike.

These are clothes for striking. But they can lend

a flexible structure. Now I can fight.

The words spill out, turning to smudges, smears.

I do not know where any lines should end.

No rhymes, no framework, paralysed by fear.

Determined, scratching, crumpling, I intend

to hem in my pen. Ballade. A new friend.

As one we bend, chamber, strike through, rhyme, redraft.

This is a form that restrains. It can lend

a flexible structure. Now I can write.

These twin constraints are a means to an end.

Not ruling, but focusing in the right

direction. Not dictators, instead friends.

Flexible structures. For me, it feels right.

(After all, a full ballade has three eight-line stanzas,

and a dobok can make a great set of pyjamas.)

About this piece

As you may be able to tell, I’m more of a prose person than a poet. This poem was borne out of my frustration around this, as, y’know, I’m a Creative Writing student, I kinda need to be able to write poetry. I eventually tried to approach it through the lens of something I’m actually good at, Taekwondo, realising that a lack of focus was tripping me up. In the same way that a dobok, the standard training uniform for Taekwondo, is a tool that shapes the way you move and fight, I found that employing poetic forms (in this case, ballade) similarly shaped and focused my writing.

About the author

J. Alexandria is a sci-fi and fantasy author who enjoys writing about themes of identity and powerlessness, and also how cool it is when large things explode. She can be contacted by email at or by twitter @JAlexandria69.

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