Grandmother Kwon

BY Martin jee


Grandmother Kwon 


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 


Grandfather Kwon

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.


Grandfather Kwon 

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. 

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