Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear You

(A post via Melee.)
Dear You,

You kissed me behind the bushes after the dance.  You made me blush when you whispered words into my ear that no one could hear.  The music was blasting through the windows, so I hoped you couldn't see that I shook with the leaves as if taken up by the rhythm of the night.

I didn't care when you started another song with another girl. After all, only a short while ago I was her, swept into your long arms and carried away by your swift steps.  When your eyes shone on me, the dingy low ceiling and the dim yellow lights hanging just above us disappeared.  Smoke shrouded sweaty bodies turned into angelic shadows, and a stary robe of midnight blue fell over us we twirled.  I thought it would last forever, though forever turned out sooner. 

Why did you call me?  Why did you write?  Why will you not let me forget?   I can't tell.  But when I blinked that night from the stars that fell onto my face, turned into water and tears, I woke up.  

So let me be.  I had a nice dream, and that is where you will stay.  

Now to pass it on - to anyone who is interested, I ask you to write a letter to whoever about whatever. It must begin with "Dear you" and you can only use pronouns. 

Thank you Melee for tagging me with this post, I thought you did a fantastic job with your letter. I've definitely enjoyed reading your stories and thoughts, I hope a few others who visits here would too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Galaxy Walk

She stepped through galaxies
stringing together
stars and dusts
a necklace of time
and space

she left behind
axles of normalcy
hoping towards a place
of dreams
flights of fancy
vaguely remembering
days of cookies
and lace

but she woke up
from warm showers
of rainfall
musky mists
of earth
and desire
spread through
midnight air

a million years
from tomorrow,
she will learn
the dance
between stars, space
and land
shedding another layer
of thorns and tears
finding center
between a slow cooked
of peanut butter
and jelly sandwich

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Teaspoons From Korea

I have eight teaspoons from Korea.

They are about a quarter of the size of a regular teaspoon each. Along the silver handle,  a pale rose grace the surface of porcelain, and a rose colored crystal tops it all.

They don't fit in with the rest of my chunky stoneware kitchen collections. This reminds me of my first day at school.

I had not anticipated attention.  But as soon as I walked in, eyes fell onto me and stayed there. One chubby boy ran up to me and pointed to my face, exclaiming:

"Look, her face is so weird!"

Several other children walked up and looked from above, below, sideways and behind to examine the shape of my head, the texture of my hair and the strange shape of my cheek bones.

"Stop. Stop it. There, there is nothing wrong with my face..."

I tried to tell them. But they talked fast. Eventually the teacher stepped in and class began. I heard them whisper behind me, as I sat in the front row. Then finally when the teacher turned, the boy behind me told me he had saw my file earlier in the teacher's office and knew that I was not a "Han" like the rest of them.

No, I am Korean.

It was a dreaded word for me. I knew no one outside of my family who had to walk around wearing that label, looking and feeling different, and having it constantly pointed out to you.  My parents didn't seem to mind, but they spoke Korean only to each other and never in front of outsiders. 

So I stumbled into a new world hoping to hide yet made a big reveal of my identity on, what else but the first day, and it stuck with me since.  I did not complain.  I knew better.  They ran off without me at recess and then after school, though I called behind them and told them I too would have loved to join in their rope jumping or ball tossing.  I watched their brand new skirts fly as they leaped, filling the playground with songs and colors.  I walked away in my too big green army pants (my brother) Lou had worn down to the last shreds two years ago but mom had patched up nonetheless for me to wear just another year.

I wanted to ask mom what did it mean to be Korean.  For example, did they also pickle six large stone jars of cabbages with oceans of garlic, ginger and spicy pepper flakes?  Did they eat nothing else with their rice all winter unless their relatives from the north brought fluffy white potatoes that melted in your mouth?

I didn't ask because I knew the answer.  I remembered how Yan from two doors down from us taunted me with her cakes. Fluffy, white, thick with sculpted layers of cream that touched her nose when she bit into it.  I had not even seen a cake like that let alone tasted it so I watched her carefully, deciphering the faint variation in colors between layers.  As I licked my lips, I tried to taste and feel the way those brand new words "vanilla and cream" rolled in my mouth.  My favorite past time until then was melting sugar into hot water and sipping the concoction slowly but it all ended that day.

So when I first arrived in Seoul, pocket flush with cash and friends in tow, twenty somewhat years later, I could hardly contain my excitement.  Rumors about this whole country (or two) that bared the same label as I did had been flooding my ears since I first arrived in America ten years ago.   I had met people.  They looked like me, with the same pale round faces, high cheek bones and strange hairlines that baffled the Chinese.  I almost believed in the legends of a proud country existed full of Koreans then but I still had doubts.  I wanted to see it all for myself.

Naturally I headed to a department store.  Shopaholic tendencies aside, I had to spend some time there alone while my friends, whose family lived in town, took care of errands.  Amongst eighty billion things, I spotted the spoons and fell in love.

They had belonged to a whole kitchen set, pots, pans, dishes, bowls. Each bore the elegant silver and porcelain design, with the signature dusty rose, so faint it's barely there, tying the one hundred and eight pieces of utensils together. 

As it would be impossible otherwise, I picked the tiniest ones out of the sets and decided to take them home with me.  But I couldn't, as the clerk didn't speak English, and I no Korean beyond restaurant lingo.  She stood shaking her head, then her hand, bowing intermittently in between, smiling, yet not budging.  I stood nodding, trying to speak, failing, repeat for an hour.  Then I burst into tears, crying.

Naturally she turned and left.

So I stood holding my first authentic piece of Korean memory, watching it come so close yet stayed so far away, like those childhood jump ropes, flying close, then looping away, never quite reaching me.  I looked around the crowded shopping arcade, pressed amongst my own people for the first time, utterly alone.

"Are you okay?"

My head buried between my arms, I had nearly drifted into an exhausted nap.  The voice jolted me back down to earth. I opened my eyes to find a strange face, staring down into me.  He wasn't tall, but had a reassuring build.  His face was kind, almost familiar, but not quite recognizable.  It occurred to me he looked rather Chinese, then I realized he was speaking Chinese.

"Oh, I am fine. I just, tried to buy something..., but I couldn't."

Saying it out loud reminded me of my failures, so tears came up again, salty and sore. I blinked hard and took a deep breath so I could stuff everything back down again.

"Maybe I can help you.  What did you want to buy?"

I told him my story, a condensed version of how I fell for the unobtainable spoons, minus the childhood trauma.  He smiled easily and walked with me to the counter, uttered phrases in Korean I could not hope to catch, except for a few (overly redundant to my Chinese part of the brain) "please", "honored", "thank you, thank you and thank you"s. 

My spoons in hand, I thanked the stranger for his help. He smiled and shook his hands as if saying "it's nothing" before walking away into the crowd.  Or was he waving me goodbye? He reminded me of someone, but I couldn't think of whom.  Later I reckoned he was one of the increasing number of Chinese immigrant who worked in Korea while sending money back home to their families.  I so reckoned because it had become a new and popular trend then,  given the economic and job market disparities. But I didn't have time to ask.

My spoons now sit between my chunky coffee mugs and even chunkier dishes. They are far too delicate for their American set mates, frail and breakable, so overtly decorative and not microwave or dishwasher or the other thousand appliances for which they should be safe but are not, but that's OK.  They fit, as they sit in my mornings stirring up sugar in hot water, making memories old and new, sweeter.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time Runs Through

Giorgio de Chirico, Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

She cuts open the belly
of night
finding a yellow ribbon
of dreams
kissing the sky high
weary walls white
like a bride

though neither sun nor moon
joins in her game
she invites time and his shadow
standing in the corner
of ancient and anew
her hair dances
her steps flew

so why hide
brimming tears of gold
songs of blue
rolling into laughter
magical carpet unfold
until tremble subsides
time passes through

* This poem is part of the dVersePoet's art challenge prompt. Photo credits as listed in the caption.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


"Now we wait ..."  He stretched away from his tray, a crumb or two of chocolate reminiscent of the tiny wedge of cake slice I served him earlier.  The cake came from a local bakery, overstocked goods from previous days.

"Wait..." I chewed on this, weighing the possibilities. Not having time to think, fearing that he would see through my panic and nervousness, I grasped for words.  "Wait for..., what's next?"

"Next?  Next thing is the night."

"Oh? What happens at night?"

"It gets dark."

I peered outside through the small windows.  A layer of yellow crust and gray dust had taken up long term residence over the glass panes, but I could still see the early evening light.  It was only seven, still a long way from darkness.  But I felt the characteristic desert night chill, suddenly.


"We sleep out there, on the streets."  His chin lifted toward the double door, through which others had walked out with as much ease as they did walking in, filling this hall a short thirty or thirty five minutes ago.  It was empty now.  The benches and tables laid bare for the first time tonight. I had walked amongst them earlier, tripping over backpacks, shopping sacks, and worn blankets.  Their overdressed owners, layering four seasons of clothing on their backs, indulged me in small talks while waiting patiently for their food.

I bit my lips and bowed my head low.  I despised myself then, my spotless clothes, my almost new car parked outside, my warm, small and messy home, a short ride away.  Most of all, I hated not having the right words.

His voice rose.  "I was doing great. I had gotten my certificates. I can weld, make pottery and...," he paused, making sure I was listening, I held my breath, nodding like one of those toy dolls people place on the dash board of their cars. 

"..., I taught martial arts.  I have skills, this just isn't my time. But, my time will come."

He almost leaped, as if catching himself. A black backpack tossed over his shoulder with one hand, and the empty tray in the other, he walked towards the cleanup line.  I stood to walk with him, offering to take his tray, but he shook me away. His eyes flashed at me, young, intelligent, dark, proud, deep, spirited eyes.  I felt small as a child, walking next to his wiry athletic frame. I surrendered my hands high and stepped aside.

-- Ending #1

As lines shortened and voices subsided, I traced his steps out the door with my eyes, trying hard to distinguish his all black ensemble from the shadows cast by the dimming light of dusk.  His words lingered in those shadows, moving into a daydream, where I watched him lay down on the concrete, shivering in the desert night.

-- Ending #2

The clinks of trays getting cleaned in the kitchen continued, through the night. They walked in, they walked out, leaving stories that stirred me, all night.

Which ending do you prefer?  Would you mind helping me decide?
(*This is a true story, and both endings are real as far as my memory holds)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Last night's moon
stumbled across tree tops
not caring
whose hair she ruffled
intoxicated by that
first cup of dawn

This morning's sun
rained down my sleeves
letting me splash
in sorrows of loss
as well as
of existence.

Question:  Can you give this poem a title?  Please leave your suggestion in the comment?

* update:  Thank you Claudia for picking a beautiful title for this poem. Thank you everyone for all your suggestions. They were each wonderful and inspiring but I could only pick one. 

Sunshine that looked like rain*

- A few thankful things:

1. Friends who thought of me, and brought me what I needed.
2. Connecting with people around the world, one fragment at a time.
3. Cooking trout for the first time, ginger and soy style.
4. Listening to songs of praise, sorrow and joy.
5. Tomatoes and peppers thriving and bearing fruit in the heat.
6. Splashing in the waves.
7. Coffee anytime, warm or iced, golden or black, over a balcony or at a seaside bench.

* No that is not my house. Though I am thankful for my small apartment farther from the ocean.


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