Jade’s Nights

cicadas crying from the bushes
the sound of water bubbling
in the seawater baths,
smoke and pale pink
the sweetly starchy taste
of shikhye, ice cold and
sipped through straws we don’t need,
her eyes, an ambiguous color
seem addicted to soaking in
the world around her,
as much as she can’t stop
soaking in the hot tubs,
these late nights spent
wet-haired and new-skinned
adjectives
we don’t have in English,
waiting on a taxi
our glistening eyes
reflecting the street lights
after everyone has gone to sleep,
come back here some day
don’t forget this place
let’s relive these
perfect summer nights.

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dry mouth

all i can see is gray
from this room against a wall,
and i can’t even say
that it’s miserable, because
poor children everywhere need places
to lay down their heads and
get some peace,
and i made memories
of this time on the sleepy island
these monotone hours,
the mornings when blue light
creeps up the wall
like a cat, silent and
cunning, deceptively
announcing the sun’s approach,
a liar, like the soft arms
around my body
i woke up thinking someone
would be next to me,
it was just angry words
from my supervisor
for mistakenly
signing the wrong dotted lines,
for my sleep and my
good dreams,
for being dizzy
from drinking on a Monday,
and now I just have a
dry mouth
that tastes like someone else,
definitely not the time
for speaking rationally.

Tamna

Slowly I’ve begun
to want for nothing but you,
I have been bewitched,
I have fallen into your charms,
your coastal roads
and fields of yellow flowers,
your rows of women
in pink gloves and straw hats,
your dark ginseng farmers
lives spent in the sun,
and the earthy-herbal afternoon
bus commutes, of high school
boys in gray and black
long legs and flyaway hair,
among stone walls and
statues, your grandmothers
raising two generations
of sea women,
your crystal green waters and
white sands, the wind
knocking breath from my lungs
like a brief glance
from the prince of your kingdom,
if only he were my own love
and not another’s,
I want to steal him for myself
before he is taken by you,
together we must escape
or I will be enchanted
by your fiery mountain,
ever watching us
like the presence of God,
yes, I should go
before I want nothing more
than this.

Ornamental

Poem for April 14, 2017

Ornament, glittering in the
Jeju sunlight, as the
East sea, a treasure of the depths

You dance and sway in the
breeze, and my vision swirls into
an array of brown and green

You sing and laugh among
the yellow yoochaekkot, but even
their sweetness is not enough

Though admiration is no sin,
those who look give but glances,
while I cannot turn away

Not once, but many times have I
loved such a prize, such a masterpiece
all for naught but my ruin.

Dismal

Deep forest green are the trees,
their backdrop the gray

Jeju skies of winter,
we fly
down a mountain road, it
reminds me of that time
I broke through
the clouds
sleeping over the island,
but I could still see
Mt. Halla,
“jejune” sounds like
Jeju, and it echoes my past
of naive happiness
as if I were screaming
into a canyon,
but instead of returning
my voice just keeps travelling
on and on and lost forever,
a song repeats
in my head, it tastes
like cigarette smoke,
car exhaust, and
fried red bean bread,
steaming warm
in my gloved hands,
bought in a grimy subway station
in old Seoul,
the young man
who is singing, he knows
the dreary days I
keep seeing, he feels
this lukewarm winter,
loneliness
painting the landscape
a dull pallet
of breathtaking wonders
gone cold, and
old joys made
lifeless.
I wrote this about winter in Jeju, and the depressed feelings I experienced during my winter here. One of the things that made me feel better during that time was Kim Namjoon’s mixtape, as I felt like he understood what I was going through. I wanted to capture that experience for a long time, but I couldn’t really write until I started feeling better.