“So tell me…”

does my hair smell like
herbal baths
or my breath
last night’s 막걸리?
your eyes burn stronger
than my pounding head
my throbbing heart
you read my face
because I wanted to look
in your soul, because
when I come here I’m
not in front of
unknown faces, I am
dancing in your warm gaze,
I am breathing
beyond this space,
and into your essence,
what restaurants do you visit and
which bars do you frequent
are you the class of 2007
or 2009?
why did you come here
to the City of Light?
does it need you to shine?
that’s a bad pickup line…
I sit here silent as you speak and
ask me what’s on my mind
if only you knew
converse highs and
bright pink cheeks, finally someone
who doesn’t mind
me opening my mouth.


Autumn Market

brown and white grains
the deep red of dried dates,
filling twenty-something
square boxes in a row,
the dingy multi-colored awnings
stretch out against a pure
bright blue sky,
thick puffy blankets sprinkled
with tiny red and yellow flowers
and sparkly pink princess dresses
hang from floor to ceiling,
we drift from stall to stall
the disgusting scent of chickens
and ducks in cages,
mingles with burnt sweet potato
and honey rice cakes,
one ahjusshi grins at me
with sparkling, wrinkled eyes
as he playfully gives me
a package of yak-gwa, like a father
feeding his son with a “rocket spoon”
the yak-gwa crashes into my bag
and we all laugh.

Half a Peninsula

I stare out the window
my eyes fixated
on north
hints of blue sky on the horizon,
“guess it’s time to pay”
I hear the words in my mind
but vaguely.
without form, like small
spoken feelings
a heavy weight dropped
from some man’s shoulders
and into my head,
is it so?
the crisp sound of jets
airplanes equipped for war
cut through the cool air, and
every swish of a car
in the 8 o’clock rush hour
sounds like an air drill
about to begin,
yet all I can think
with a silent settling
as tea leaves in a steaming cup,
is it

Shilddeugi (Cat’s Cradle)

I feel my cheeks blushing-
the tiny cosmos flowers
of autumn have bloomed
across my pale skin,
you are laughing at me
with your sparkling
mischievous eyes,
your fingers brush mine and
we dance together, the strings
bouncing up and down
crossing and switching hands
like the conversation
we cannot dream of having,
your short, enchanting explanations
“no, this way, no, this way,”
reminds me
you are so young and I
know nothing of you,
though the sunlight today is bright
the colors of early autumn are vivid
and we are laughing,
I learned from last time
that I shouldn’t love a man
whom I know nothing of.

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
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.

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.