Out of albumen and blood, out of amniotic brine, placental sea-swell, trough, salt-spume and foam, you came to us infinitely far, little traveler, from the other world— skull-keel and heel-hull socketed to pelvic cradle, rib-rigging, bowsprit-spine, driftwood-bone, the ship of you scudding wave after wave of what-might-never-have-been. Memory, stay faithful to this moment, which will never return: may I never forget when we first saw you, there on the other side, still fish-gilled, water-lunged, your eelgrass-hair and seahorse-skeleton floating in the sonogram screen like a ghost from tomorrow, moth-breath quicksilver in snowy pixels, fists in sleep-twitch, not yet alive but not not, you who were and were not, a thunder of bloodbeats sutured in green jags on the ultrasound machine like hooves galloping from eternity to time, feet kicking bone-creel and womb-wall, while we waited, never to waken in that world again, the world without the shadow of your death, with no you or not-you, no is or was or might-have-been or never-were. May I never forget when we first saw you in your afterlife which was life, soaked otter-pelt and swan-down crowning, face cauled in blood and mucus-mud, eyes soldered shut, wet birth-cord rooting you from one world to the next, you who might not have lived, might never have been born, like all the others, as we looked at every pock and crook of your skull, every clotted hair, seal-slick on your blue-black scalp, every lash, every nail, every pore, every breath, with so much wonder that wonder is not the word—
Copyright © 2018 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I don't mean to make you cry.
I mean nothing, but this has not kept you
From peeling away my body, layer by layer,
The tears clouding your eyes as the table fills
With husks, cut flesh, all the debris of pursuit.
Poor deluded human: you seek my heart.
Hunt all you want. Beneath each skin of mine
Lies another skin: I am pure onion--pure union
Of outside and in, surface and secret core.
Look at you, chopping and weeping. Idiot.
Is this the way you go through life, your mind
A stopless knife, driven by your fantasy of truth,
Of lasting union--slashing away skin after skin
From things, ruin and tears your only signs
Of progress? Enough is enough.
You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed
Through veils. How else can it be seen?
How will you rip away the veil of the eye, the veil
That you are, you who want to grasp the heart
Of things, hungry to know where meaning
Lies. Taste what you hold in your hands: onion-juice,
Yellow peels, my stinging shreds. You are the one
In pieces. Whatever you meant to love, in meaning to
You changed yourself: you are not who you are,
Your soul cut moment to moment by a blade
Of fresh desire, the ground sown with abandoned skins.
And at your inmost circle, what? A core that is
Not one. Poor fool, you are divided at the heart,
Lost in its maze of chambers, blood, and love,
A heart that will one day beat you to death.
From Notes from the Divided Country by Suji Kwock Kim. Copyright © 2003 by Suji Kwock Kim. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.