BY Martin jee
I. Holiday Greetings
Sorry I couldn’t visit;
If only the world were more
apricot than peach. Then
we would be larger souls.
I’ll love and miss and wish
that you still stood tall to reach
the uppermost shelves with
utmost ease. Fine powdered
herbs even would be no match.
Another day meant your back bent
too far for your house. It fed on you
but you stayed, and withered.
Your world was through lenses.
Scarred cups crusted orange,
starred green moldy preserves.
Your last pickled-cabbage batch.
They are there to stay. I am not.
I told you I was busy, sorry
I could not visit. That house
was killing me, everything else
was giving me life.
I’ll see you when you die.
II. Broken Bones
is now long gone
This time it was the stairs. You ascended
but your foot fell back and sent you down.
inside a box
of plated gold
Broken hip. No one could blame you.
Hwangsa wind blew through that rooftop,
drying clothes and dusting fruit, bringing
mosquitoes to fertilize your rainwater urns.
with steel flowers
that never rot
The wind was hazy with dust from afar.
The wind was what dyed your white blankets,
made your tomatoes wrinkled and sickly.
inside a pot
(so many friends)
Supporting sticks were of no use,
those plants were clearly dying. The urns
thrived, the larvae dived and returned
frail and pale, poisoning the water.
like mr park
(dead at ten)
Broken hip. It was your second time,
the first was on ice. Suffocating
indoors made you mad, so you left
and decided to suffocate outside.
got put to rest
with many toys
Nothing breaks in solitude. I wish
you’d lived in a different home.
and lots of love
(that lucky boy)-
Instead you pickled cabbage,
dried fish, preserved fruit,
went to Mass to be saved.
is long gone
Instead you went and nearly
died. The first time I visited you
with a get-well-soon. The medicine
means it doesn’t matter this time.
and next to him
will lie his wife.
III. Crucifixes and Prayers
Into the sky flies a very small affair.
A perennial prayer. Long enough
to contain lifetimes, eyes
likewise risen from the ground.
Back bent outwards in praise, in song -
like the cicada after seventeen years’ stasis.
A wooden crucifix clenched while the Lord
looks on in serene silence. Emergence.
Eighty years come forth from frailty.
Music pours from this broken vessel
as though water from a cracked vase,
a sigh that lingers in the night air.
Ceased limbs kneel before the light.
Withered hands clasp before the light.
They rise yet in assurance of life.
Life lit through hazéd vision, eyes
that see what has come of it all,
that see the meandering dead smile
from faces that search for the verdict
of lost and fallen time. Vindictive-
incense burns in wrath, the dead
raging against the decay of memories.
A fly alights. Legs rubbed together;
the great crucible. Reanimation.
IV. A Change in Circumstance
Waves of long grass in summer wind.
It was your favorite place. You recall
the river once flooded the stalks away.
The water was redirected, the grass
built upon. Now all that is left is memory
repeated too often to impassive ears.
Last night I think I sat by your side.
You smiled. Then you told me
about your three living children
as though I did not already know.
The first was my father. The others
were daughters, inferior-
or so you said. I think you must have,
the hospital suffocating you as ever -
at least you slept in a starched white bed.
Tiles so glistening so as to reflect
even drops of water, remnants
of you and three other invalids.
Last night I really thought you were there.
I thought inside your mind somewhere
amongst the caverns you knew me.
I was not ready. I did not know you,
did not know the actor that played you
these many years had already left.
Inferior. Two years. The doctor
told them you had two years. Maybe
they cried. It was only formality-
your prayers ended long ago,
and I laughed. Please forgive me,
Grandmother Kwon, I laughed
because I remembered another
change in circumstance and saw
there was redemption at last.
V. From the Windowpanes
Last night it rained. You couldn’t sleep
from aching pain, but the raindrops drummed
on the windowpane until you did.
The sound of static spilled from a screen
that wavered like the rivulets outside.
A clock pierced the stasis, six seconds late,
and danced on the remains of the day.
Outside your window was a bare tree.
I wonder if you ever saw it. A spider
had nested itself in the branches. When
it rained some pearls were caught
and it almost looked like the gossamer
was part of the sky, a floating web
of constellations, lines of filament.