A Lonely City
Draughts of moist air move through Seoul,
and the whales shadow rooftops, moaning.
Couples slouch deeply in plastic blue chairs,
tipping beers and stirring bowls
of hot noodles. Everyone is laughing
and lonely. Someone opens his mouth
to speak from the heart
and his soul stops and fumbles, ashamed.
Shafts of white streetlight spill onto the streets,
jostling through darkness for space.
From church, a flock of wild prayers
beat their wings at the dun sky.
Somewhere, a young girl with a gentle mouth
studies till blood drops from her eyes.
I lay a blank sheet on the flat of your stomach
and write this so quickly it tears:
do you see, my hand trembles, it trembles.
It takes all the green loveliness
of sleepwalking in dreams
to forget what it means to be lonely.
It takes endless walks in the loosening dusk
to remember: the whole world is lonely.
Anatomy of a Korean Inheritance
Inheritance: an unchosen
housefire of years, a word
with the burden of fate.
I love and resent
my broken red jewels,
this rite to enchain me
in love. Love as a form
of slow violence, locking
my heart in an ice inn.
Hence I train myself
to offer welcome. Hence
I used to incinerate hope.
Inheritance is a dark gift:
both an inner itch
and a caress.
I fold myself into a kite,
fleeing to a borderless sky.
An entire chain ties
my feet to the past,
but my lips, at least,
brush against stars.
I run after the kingdom
of God. I entice rain
and drown in wild grace.
Only then can I live
as heir to these ancient
wounds. Only then
can I pass on this ache
that never grows tinier,
only then can I
Esther Ra is an advocate, educator, and the author of book of untranslatable things (Grayson Books, 2018), which received the 2018 Grayson Books Chapbook Award. Her work has also been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The Rumpus, and Border Crossing, among others. She is the recipient of the Women Writing War Poetry Award, as well as The RAR William Wantling Prize for Poetry. An external relations officer for Saejowi, Esther currently works to support medical and mental health services for North Korean refugees in Seoul. She is deeply interested in the quiet beauty of the ordinary and the space between different cultures. Find her online at gracefulorchid.wordpress.com.
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