Canto II


My Father After Korea

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All the stories you tell and this

is the part you skip over: the melted bridge,


a rash of marigolds blooming over

her shoulder, the way his body hit


the water; bones brittle like glass. Then:

the press South, soldiers at the door:


그는 어디 있니? Halabeoji curled in the floor

boards, silent, or maybe it was after—his slack


mouth, soju bottles, thick knuckles folded

over pearls at the kitchen table. The sound


as the string snapped around your mother’s

neck reminds you: it was never rewritten.


The white beads tinkle in your oma’s

draw-string bag all the way across the pacific,


pouring your father, like silt, into liquor

bottles, one after another, the stink of


Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love where

your younger brother vanished in the same


oily night which swallowed

the pearls, one by one.


The Wolf, Remembered

Wet fur, teeth, pawprints linger

in my dreams, the forest with its soft sighs


remembers and I think: my skin cannot be

my skin; it cannot be torn from the body


which swallowed my body, and so

I do not want it. These bloody hands


are mine— they wash the hide of who

I was, and although he


is dead, damp breath forever faded

from the earth, his yellow eyes watch


my steps, pause at the buried axe,

my grandmother’s grave still turned


with loamy earth. Perhaps in another life

I would be the wolf, and haunt his trails,


looming in the shadows, loose jowls

tasting his cloak. As if when I


was born from the ripped belly

of the beast, I took his soul with his life,


his wrath, his hunger,

and his teeth.


A Star is Collapsing in Cygnus

Small specks of light fold into themselves,

by the swan in the sky, just a stellar neighborhood


away, while I commute the 75 through Seattle.

Between one breath and the next, it banks and


pinches out like a flame; a small black spot, gone

faster than the bird god took the girl, swallowed


her up, planting celestial seeds in the bruised

dark where it happened. And no matter how


many times my bus circles this block, my pencil

orbiting her name, I can’t escape the quiet


labor of a dying sun, the black hole pushing

through her legs to be born. Some violence


is so big, you can see it from space; supernova,

buckling into dark matter, bleeding bright dust


in rivers across the way. Others collapse quietly,

like a girl in the corner, feathers in her hair,


blinking from our view without a word.


The Beast You Knew

I am trying to shed my skin and become

the animal you think I am, needy and territorial; ivory

claws trace your skin. One day I will

be mythic. The beast you’ve only ever seen

            in stories. Maybe when you look, but cannot touch

            I will be more real to you than I am

            now. The girl’s number on your phone will be

small bones, crushed between my teeth;

I will shake your disinterest off my fur like a long

winter. When the snows come, you will

be cold, and I, a wild thing, won’t even care.






Arah Ko is a multiethnic writer living in the Greater Chicago area. She studied English with honors and makes a mean pot of coffee. Her work is forthcoming in Ruminate and The Cresset and has appeared in Hawai'i Pacific Review and Maudlin House, among others. She is the Luci Shaw Fellow at Image journal.




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Surprise me...
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