The alcove of your arm
has become my favorite room
for sleep, but I’ve been roused
by nightmares lately. Even thunderstorms
couldn’t wake you, my mother says
over the phone. I want to tell her
I’ve been seeing a white man, an American
man, but I can already imagine her:
Well, you can have friends. She had never meant
for me to become a Westerner—
she’s afraid of losing me to a foreigner, being unable to speak
to her future grandchildren. Thousands of miles away
in Korea she asks if anything is wrong. I want to laugh.
Say to you, Isn’t she ridiculous? But
last night a Korean man broke into your room
and raped me, with you calm in your repose
next to me. He sat on my stomach with a knife,
the only gleaming thing. And you were still
in your platinum skin when I opened my eyes. How
can anything be wrong, I comfort my mother.
First appeared in Poetry (November 2017). Reprinted by permission of the author.
Emily Jungmin Yoon is the author of A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco, 2018) and Ordinary Misfortunes, the 2017 winner of the Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize by Tupelo Press. Yoon was born in Busan, Republic of Korea and received her BA at the University of Pennsylvania and MFA in Creative Writing at New York University. She has been the recipient of awards and fellowships from Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, AWP’s WC&C Scholarship Competition, and the Poetry Foundation, among others. Her poems and translations have appeared in publications including The New Yorker, POETRY, The New York Times Magazine, and Korean Literature Now. She currently serves as the Poetry Editor for The Margins, the literary magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and is a PhD student studying Korean literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.