Free Skate

by Micah Lau

At an ice rink in downtown Seoul she takes my arm
as we slide with reckless speed, an unreal concurrence
of precarious grace, reflected beams revolving overhead
streaking bright in dark, simulating winter night in July.
The most technically beautiful, she says as we move,
was Kim Yuna, also from Bucheon, back in Vancouver
from which I remember the Dubé/Davison free skate
to “The Way We Were,” their synchronous motion
so truthfully fitting a real lost love it stings to think
as choreographed longing, a well-practiced sorrow.
Jessica Dubé was too far behind on the triple salchow
when she fell backwards, and the scar on her face
from Bryce Davison’s blade three years ago
leveled with his eyes as she drew near to recover,
in agony again, holding distance for the camel spin
that had sliced her before. A closeness that cuts
is a mistake not made twice, but what heart does not want,
in some sinister way, to leave marks on the other,
ineluctible change that remains long after love?
The next morning her aunt drives us into Bucheon
to show me their old home, little girls riding bicycles
in side streets, turning off into wide playgrounds,
steel swings in concrete lots under identical gray
high-rise apartment complexes. I wonder if Kim Yuna
took her bike along this path of trimmed birch, unaware
of the pressure to come, how effortless fluency is a form
of concealed pain, that performing alone escapes a predestiny
to hurt or to be hurt, accidentally, it seems, in half-turns.
Leaving the city, the road curves up a forested mountain,
and I get carsick in the back seat, anxious to stop or know
how much longer we will be on the road. I say in English,
which her aunt does not speak, that she needs to tell me
where we are going beforehand, I hate when this happens,
I’d rather not be dragged along like a child. She says I can
fly back home at any time. We park near a building with a cross,
and she tells me to wait in the car. Through the rear window
I see flowers, and sober white marble, a grid of graves,
a columbarium upstairs. The cross on the roof is wired to glow
neon red at night. She meets with a woman I recognize
from pictures as her dead father’s mother, whom she
does not embrace. When she returns I’ll say sorry, sometimes
time rewrites every line into injury, I don’t know why,
and I watch as she walks back, wiping her eyes, holding,
with both hands, a can of melon soda to settle my stomach.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes