by Emily Yoon
We ate dinner together,
me on his tough thigh, four years old, and
with his chopsticks he would open the grilled mackerel’s stomach
feed me the dark flesh of the abdomen that I called
boar flesh because it was the colour of a boar.
Without having to ask,
that rich piece of fish was always mine, the eyes, too,
which my grandfather plucked out, saying they were good
for the vision.
He was a mountain, and on his shoulders
I pierced the clouds.
In Spring, he taught me butterflies, how to catch them,
and I snapped at their wings my fingers until my hands
were sticky with powder.
In Autumn he showed me the red dragonflies and
the cosmos fields.
Since then, September is not the maple
or the gingko or the impossibly high sky,
but winged chilis disappearing and appearing
within the evening glow and fields of flowers
hugging the raw wind of fall in their petals.
He showed me the taste of sweet coffee,
let me run up and down
the sacred tomb of King Suro,
taught me Japanese, the word konbanwa, and
I would run to him after sunset
the foreign sound on my tongue.
When my parents came to take me back.
I cried out to the mountain who became smaller and smaller
over my father’s shoulder; I kicked and screamed
to stay with his butterflies and mackerel and exotic language.
When I am sinking, I close my wet eyes,
and from the lead box in my heart, take out a few photographs:
grandfather, his silver hair slicked back with aromatic oil,
the tree that my cousins and I hung from like
The poem is is dedicated to the author’s grandfather, whom she lived with for a few years when she was little. He passed away before she entered elementary school, but strangely, the memories of him are the most vivid in her brain. He is still her biggest supporter in her heart.
Emily Jungmin Yoon is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in English and Communication. She was born and raised in Busan, Korea until the age of 10, when she moved to Victoria, BC, Canada. Her passion for poetry really bloomed in 11th grade, when she took a writing class with Terence Young. She spent the spring semester of the junior year at Seoul National University, where she fell in love with Korean literature and literary translation. She has great interest in translating poetry, and is currently honing the craft in a translation workshop with Taije Silverman at Penn. Emily is trying to incorporate her uniquely Korean (not Korean-Canadian) voice into her poetry in order to increase awareness or appreciation of the Korean culture to those who will read her words. Emily is not sure where she will be in 10 years, but hopes that she will still be translating and writing poetry.
It’s no secret. When it comes to celebrating the best local literature we can get downright fanatical. We publish two print magazines a year – but it’s not enough. That’s why we’ve created The Hive: APIARY Digital Edition. We’re cataloging the best local poems and stories, one by one. Read them on our blog and check back at The Hive as we build a living, evolving digital library of work by some of Philadelphia’s most talented and hardworking writers.