Soo Young Yun

Atonement

an unsmiling bronze
girl sits, clad
in plain, tattered
hanbok
enveloped by an old woman’s
shadow, she gazes

spit pools around her stripped
feet, tension in her raised heels
the parched wings of a butterfly rot,
flattened against the pavement—
a nuisance, for many, but
inerasable

the girl listens, to a small solemn bird
perched on her shoulder, soothing
her thighs burnt against the wood
the muddy folds of her patched skirt hiding,
soiled by tears
of sticky crimson

the bird listens to her, its beak
taut
the girl’s own fingers
curled into knots, the only weapon
against eyes that scorn
and ears that do not listen

the chopped frays of her hair
estranged from family, framing
her sharpened, inquisitive eyes—
unblinking,
waiting

The 38th Parallel

We are proof that grudges can last
for sixty-seven years, that families
can be estranged over the space
between barbed wire, that
love and affection and unity
can dissipate as swiftly
as land mines sprout from the ground.

We are proof that peoples of the same flesh and
blood can drift apart; to the point where we have
different names for ice cream, frogs,
fried rice, restrooms, and hiccups;
for lies, and ‘alright.’ But we do
have a common name for this falling out,
this schism called the War of Yook Ee Oh. 1

We are proof that tension can be incessant, eternal;
That ties can rot and become embittered to no end.
Two brothers, one growing lethal explosives
capable of melting and dissolving all kin;
the other always staying on guard,
his men trained to shoot on command for
a mandatory two years, all out of fear
of an unpredictable sibling.

We are proof that cultures are more resilient
than politics and weapons. We are united
by the throes of han 2 and warm-hearted jeong, 3
by histories of emperors and silken skirts
patterned in gold, giving hopes to a grueling
reconciliation, to forgiveness.

 

[1] “Six-two-five” in Korean, referring to how Koreans call the Korean War (June 25th, 1950)
[2] (cultural term for) sorrow, oppression, unavenged justice
[3] (comprehensively meaning) love, affection, compassion, sympathy, community, attachment

Author Portrait

Soo Young Yun is a writer from Seoul, South Korea. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Aerie International, Writing for Peace, Skipping Stones Youth Honor Awards, Yonsei University, The Korea Times, Seoul National University of Education, among others. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Burningword Literary Journal, DUENDE, Emerald Coast Review, Hawai'i Review, Red Weather, The Vignette Review, among other journals and anthologies.

View the website of Soo Young Yun